I have so many over-lapping, contradictory opinions about the Gawker thing, all of which should be prefaced by the fact that I’ve never really read it. Not because it was a gutter tabloid but because I wasn’t interested in its milieu (NY’s media gossip and other parallel concerns I know nothing about).
But, let’s not let that fundamental lack of knowledge interrupt my having of opinions!
1) It’s not ok for some rich dude to start suing people he disagrees with, shutting down media outlets and targeting writers/editors who were (bombastically, idiotically) doing their jobs. That’s a scary precedent to set. Gawker was easy to hate. If something we all liked better were sued out of existence, this would be a whole other conversation.
2) It’s never ok to publish a sex tape without the express consent of the people in it. It’s a form of sexual abuse.
3) It was also idiotic to publish a story as unrelentingly stupid and pointless as that, even if ‘unrelentingly stupid and pointless’ was Gawker’s raison d’etre. Men sleeping with women (who they may or may not be in a relationship with) is the oldest story that exists. It’s not news, it’s not interesting, I don’t care.
4) And yet, the click-ometrics of the internet would suggest that tons of people did care enough to click through. (those people are perpetuating sexual abuse too.)
4) It really pisses me off when journalists take the tremendous freedom offered by having a free press and waste it on some guy’s sex life. Or use that privilege to drag us all down into the gutter.
5) And yet, again, lots of people seem to want what’s on show in the gutter. Do I really get to dismiss that?
6) Gawker did what all good media companies do – carve out a space for a very specific thing you didn’t know was missing from the landscape but instantly appreciate as soon as you see it. This 7,000 word piece on abortion at 37 weeks has been rattling around my head for months. If it wasn’t published on Jezebel, I don’t know where it could live. A healthy media ecosystem has space for the very silly and the very smart.
7) There is value in having a ‘disruptor’ who brings something fresh and a little chaotic to the media market. That’s rarely comfortable but it is important to the overall media ecosystem. To do that you need financial backing and in the internet era, going after some of that gutter bullshit is the surest way to keep traffic up.
8) It’s impossible to stand over breaking the law, the Amy Pascal thing, the Lena Dunham book proposal or Vogue images, about 90% of what they do. And yet, is there still a role for a distinctly not nice, trashy media entity? I couldn’t work there and didn’t read it, but doesn’t it still have a role?
9) Without question, some of the strongest ‘internet’ writers have come from Gawker’s stable. Jia wrote about the freedom and flexibility afforded to her and used it to kickstart her career. There’s nothing like watching a smart, interested mind at work. At its best, Gawker allowed smart people to go hard at niche topics.
10) I’m also somewhat familiar with working somewhere that people (love to) hate. It can be intoxicating.