Aiming to strike a blow at Gawker’s journalistic credibility, Hulk Hogan’s legal team summoned an expert.
But during a lengthy cross-examination in a St. Petersburg, Florida courtroom on Thursday, an attorney for Gawker portrayed that same expert witness as someone who is out of touch with the new media landscape.
Appearing on the stand at the Pinellas County Judicial Building on the fourth day of Hogan’s $100 million invasion of privacy trial against Gawker, Mike Foley, a journalism professor at the University of Florida, was grilled on whether his background makes him a credible witness.
Gawker attorney Michael Sullivan pointed out that Foley spent much of his journalism career working in a corporate capacity, and hasn’t worked in a newsroom in 24 years or as a reporter in 43 years.
Sullivan frequently employed the phrase “back in the day” to refer to Foley’s time as a journalist at the St. Petersburg Times.
“When you were last in the newsroom, there was no Facebook, right?” Sullivan asked the witness. “There was no YouTube, right?”
When asked if he worked in an era when journalists were required to use Twitter, Foley said, “It didn’t exist.”
Foley appeared flustered at times during his testimony, often pausing for long periods of time before offering a response.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, is suing Gawker, its founder Nick Denton and former editor A.J. Daulerio for publishing a portion of his sex tape in 2012.
During direct questioning from Hogan’s attorney on Wednesday, Foley said that Gawker’s publication of the tape ran afoul of the code of ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Gawker’s defense centers around free speech. Attorneys for the company say that its publication of the video and the written commentary that accompanied the clip are protected by the First Amendment, given how much Hogan has publicly discussed his sex life and the amount of news coverage that had been devoted to the tape.
Foley said that Gawker had a “right” to run its written commentary on the sex tape, though he said he wouldn’t have published such a story during his days as a newsman.
In an email to CNNMoney, SPJ ethics committee chairman Andrew Seaman challenged the plaintiff’s use of the ethics code in the trial.
“The SPJ Code of Ethics is not relevant to whether an act is or is not legal. The words ‘ethical’ and ‘legal’ are not synonyms,” Seaman said.