March 10, 2016
Now is as good a time as any to check back in on the Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker civil lawsuit that’s taken on a hyper-surreal role in the world of social media and beyond.
Here’s a quick refresher: Someone videotaped Hogan’s real-life iteration Terry Bollea having sex with the then-wife of his then-best friend Bubba The Love Sponge. Gawker, a gossip-and-more site based in New York City, ran a post that included an edited-down version of said tryst. Bollea did not appreciate this and filed a lawsuit seeking $100 million in damages in a case that tests the limits of online-press freedom.
As we shared on Monday, the trial itself is must-watch live-streaming content. You can watch it via this link.
On Wednesday, none other than the New York Times ran a story headlined “Gawker Editor’s Testimony Stuns Courtroom in Hulk Hogan Trial.”
The courtroom was stunned, apparently, by something that A.J. Daulerio – an Ambler man who once worked at Philadelphia magazine – said about his personal ethics as they pertained to posting celebrity sex tapes. Via the NYT:
“Can you imagine a situation where a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy?” asked the lawyer, Douglas E. Mirell.
“If they were a child,” Mr. Daulerio replied.
“Under what age?” the lawyer pressed.
Knowing Daulerio as I do – he hired me as a contributing writer for the Gawker sports site Deadspin for a few years in the early ‘10s – I quickly chalked it up to him being flippant him. Translation: He’s a sarcastic deposition-question answerer, not a child pornographer, but that didn’t stop the sensational-headline machines from doing what they do best.
And – hoo boy – the reaction was exactly what one would expect, particularly as there’s an underlying tone of pre-schadenfreude emanating from those who want to see Gawker – and its brand of salaciousness – go the way of Friendster.
The takeaway, of course, is that being deposed for a $100-million civil lawsuit is far from the time to do anything but answer questions seriously, what with a jury not knowing you’re sarcastic and, thus, deducting points from your likeability charts. (We won’t know whether that happened, of course, until after the six-person jury renders its verdict and talks.)
Suffice it to say, the child-pornography discussion continued into Thursday’s testimony when University of Florida journalism professor Mike Foley testified about journalism ethics. Specifically :
In your opinion, was the posting of the Hulk Hogan video a violation of ethics? Foley: “yes” #hulkvsgawk— Anna Phillips (@annamphillips) March 9, 2016
Foley agrees all publications are protected by 1st Amend unless they break law, eg. publish child porn #hulkvsgawk— Anna Phillips (@annamphillips) March 10, 2016
By the time the parties returned from Thursday afternoon's lunch break at 1:30 p.m., attention remained on Foley's take on journalism ethics and First Amendment protection which, while not as entertaining as Bollea's time on the stand, is at the very heart of the case. Watch the livestream here.