Taking down an article after criticism

Hours after it was published on Monday, GQ removed an article on media executive David Zaslav from its website following complaints from Warner Bros. Discovery. The story, written by freelance film critic Jason Bailey, recounted a number of moves made by Zaslav that made him “the most hated man in Hollywood.” Shortly after the story was published, the article was edited extensively and was eventually taken off the website. In a statement to Deadline, GQ said it was “not properly edited before going live.” Warner Bros. Discovery said in a statement, “The freelance reporter made no attempt to reach out to Warner Bros. Discovery to fact-check the substance of the piece before publishing — a standard practice for any reputable news outlet.” It was later reported that GQ’s Editor-in-Chief Will Welch is producing a movie with Warner Bros.

One of the four pillars of the SPJ Code of Ethics is to act independently. Welch being a producer on a Warner Bros. movie would qualify as a conflict of interest, and the Code says to “disclose unavoidable conflicts.” Furthermore, the Code says to be accountable and transparent. As Tatiana Siegel writes for Variety, “Even then, an editor’s note would typically appear when readers clicked on an excised story with an explanation of why it was killed.” GQ should have disclosed the major edits made on the article and explained why the article was taken down.