Well, I’m not sure a Wikileaks structure would mean they couldn’t be sued or what not. Remember what happened to Julian Assange? Ran a controversial site, had (what might be) false claims brought against him, stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. They might not be able to sue in a traditional sense, but someone invested in ‘sending a message’ to such a site could certainly make the founder’s life a living hell.
Back to Gawker though, I’m sorry, but when was it said that journalists can ignore the law under some vague idea of ‘freedom of speech’? There was no reason for them to post this tape, no permission from anyone, and honestly no real point. So there may have been some ‘newsworthy’ quote? Well, then post the bit with the quote, which I hear wasn’t in the middle of the actual explicit part of the tape.
But no, an interest in getting clicks for sexual content over merely reporting what might have been actual news (and then a contempt for the legal system) got them where they are now. They made a mistake that one of their enemies could capitalise on.