Nick Denton has come out about when he believes "outing" a person is appropriate.
The gay Gawker Media founder discussed the politics of reporting on a person's sexual orientation in a Wednesday interview with Time. The outlet had asked Denton if he had a "rosebud," a term the media mogul defined as "something driving" his career in media.
"Maybe because I was gay, I grew up hating open secrets," Denton said. "Usually if someone’s gay it’s a pretty open secret. Their friends know, their family knows, but out of some misplaced sense of decency nobody talks about it."
"Generally my view is that, let’s just have it out. The truth will set you free. That’s what I believe," he concluded.
Recently, Gawker Media filed for bankruptcy. A Florida jury awarded $140 million to Hulk Hogan, after Gawker published a sex tape of the wrestler without his permission. The case was being privately funded by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who was outed by Valleywag — Gawker’s Silicon Valley-centric blog — in a 2007 post. Thiel appears to be funding a rash of lawsuits against Gawker Media as payback.
Since its founding, Gawker has speculated on the sexual orientation of several public and private figures, including James Franco, Fox News host Shepard Smith, and a Conde Nast executive whom The Advocate will not name. Denton issued an apology last year regarding this last case and pulled the article.
“I believe this public mood reflects a growing recognition that we all have secrets, and they are not all equally worthy of exposure,” the gay media mogul wrote at the time.
In an interview discussing the implications of Denton's apology for outing the Conde Nast executive, Michelangelo Signorile, a gay reporter who wrote a book on the subject, cited two primary guidelines: media should only report that a person is LGBT if he or she is a public figure, and only if the information is relevant to a story. Think closeted right-wing Republican.
However, Signorile also cited the dangers of the active omission of a person's sexual orientation, a circumstance he observed far too often in mainstream media.
“It’s a latent homophobia, but it’s couched in a concern for privacy,” Signorile says of the media’s decision to not report — or bother to ask — whether a public figure is gay, even if the information might be newsworthy.
In his latest remarks, Denton is describing the glass closet, a term used to describe figures who are out in their personal lives but closeted to the public. His assertion of "let’s just have it out. The truth will set you free" implies outing is a form of activism or public service— or in Gawker's case, reporting.