(CN) – Attorneys for Hulk Hogan continued their legal wrestling match with Gawker in a Florida courtroom on Thursday by calling on a journalism professor who harshly critiqued the gossip website’s behavior and statements made by the site’s former editor in chief.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, sued Gawker in 2012 for publishing portions of a tape that showed the wrestler having sex with the former wife of Bollea’s then-best friend Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem.
The wrestler seeks $100 million in damages for invasion of privacy.
University of Florida journalism professor Mike Foley, a former executive editor for St. Petersburg Times, served as expert witness for Bollea.
A member of the Society of Professional Journalists – a national organization promoting journalism ethics – Foley outlined several aspects of the Gawker article that did not follow SPJ’s guidelines.
“I got no sense that they weighed the consequences,” Foley said about Gawker’s decision to publish excerpts from the sex tape.
In particular, Foley took issue with Gawker’s pandering to “lurid curiosity” and not contacting those who appear on the tape.
“They did not contact any of the principals involved,” Foley said. “I don’t know what kind of an attempt was made to find out who the source of the information was. These are all serious questions I would have about that.”
Under a withering cross-examination, Foley admitted there was not any media content he considered unprotected by the First Amendment, except “child pornography.”
That very subject came up earlier when Bollea’s attorneys played a 2013 deposition from A.J. Daulerio, former editor in chief of Gawker and the author of the sex tape post.
When a Bollea attorney asked Daulerio if there was any situation where he would not publish a celebrity sex tape, he answered, “If they were a child.”
“Under what age?”
Daulerio responded: “Four.”
In a statement, Gawker said Daulerio was not serious.
Daulerio will have a chance to respond himself when the defense calls him to the stand in the coming days.
The majority of Daulerio’s deposition revolved around his no-holds-barred approach to publishing celebrity news, including stories about a topless Kate Middleton and Brett Favre’s penis.
At one point, a Bollea attorney asked Daulerio if he would be bothered if a sex tape involving him were published.
“I expect that to happen at some point,” he answered.
Later, Gawker attorney Michael Sullivan lashed into Foley on cross-examination, depicting the professor as an aging journalist who didn’t understand the new media environment dominated by a 24-hour news cycle and the chase for page views.
After listing Foley’s experience, Sullivan clarified the professor has not held a newsroom job since 1992. In his questioning, Sullivan continued to illustrate Foley never worked in a news environment with blogs and digital video.
“When you were last in the newsroom there was no Facebook, right? There was no YouTube, right? There was no Twitter, right?” Sullivan asked Foley, who answered in the affirmative.
Foley earned $350 an hour for his time, according to court documents. Last year, Gawker attempted to block the expert witness due to the subjective nature of his testimony.
The motion was denied.
Photo caption: Former Gawker Editor in Chief A.J. Daulerio . Photograph by Boyzell Hosey of the Tampa Bay Times.
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