“Nostalgia is a drug from hell”: Will Gawker’s swashbuckling style survive the next relaunch?


Like a Bat-Signal for the media industry, Gawker’s long-dormant Twitter feed came to life one recent morning with a request: [email protected] “IT’S ALIVE”, Gawker and Deadspin alum Timothy burke replied on the account’s first tweet since 2016, the year wrestler and reality TV star Hulk hogan, backed by tech billionaire Pierre Thiel, successfully sued the forgotten gossip site for posting its sex tape. Gawker is now expected to return in early fall, said a source with knowledge of the plans, under Lea Finnegan, a former editor of the site and one of its more caustic editors, who followed on Twitter with a demand of herself: “only good things please.”

Gawker’s resurrection under Finnegan is being closely watched inside New York’s media bubble, which its previous iteration both satisfied and gleefully hollowed out. ‘Nostalgia is a hell of a drug,’ former Gawker editor said Gabriel Snyder. “When Gawker alumni talk about how good Gawker is, I think they often talk about how good their Gawker is,” added Snyder, one of the original website’s 14 editors. “There’s not really any clarity in my mind on what it would even mean to bring Gawker back in 2021,” and “whoever is going to do that will have to do a lot of definitions.” That being said, Snyder notes that Finnegan has long been “one of the guardians of the Gawker voice.”

“Leah Finnegan’s choice shocked me in the best possible way”, Foster Kameranother former Gawker editor and writer told me, describing her as a “recalcitrant, creative and brilliant editor” with “a real pugilist streak,” someone capable of assuming the kind of nebulous stratosphere of power that Gawker did at its peak. “You have to be excited even by the aspiration to follow this,” Kamer added. “Leah is the only person who could lead Gawker into his next era,” said the editor of the blog Discourse. Alexandre chan, a former Gawker writer who became the editor-in-chief of Splinter, who was considered Gawker’s successor before its closure in 2019. “I don’t know what it’s gonna be, but I trust Leah.”

Finnegan, who was previously editor-in-chief of The Outline, after stints at the New York Times and HuffPost, refused to disclose plans for Gawker 3.0 – “what if Business Insider steals them?” She joked in an email – and suggested that the growing staff are currently “writing little drafts on sticky notes” ahead of the launch. In the meantime, his team is starting to focus. The staff — all women so far — understand Kelly conaboy, a former Gawker writer and more recently a general writer at new York The Cut of the magazine, who joins as senior editor; Jenny zhang, editor-in-chief at Eater, as editor-in-chief; Tarpley Hitt, Power Trip reporter for the Daily Beast, as editor; and Brandy jensen, who worked with Finnegan at The Outline, as a feature editor. Two other former Gawker writers signed: Dayna evans, the current editor of Eater Philly, will be a fashion columnist, and Ally Jones, who writes a celebrity gossip column for The Cut, joins as a contributing writer. Sarah Hagi, cultural critic and writer, and Claire Carusillo, formerly beauty columnist at Man Repeller, also joins as contributing writers.

Last week, Tammie Teclemariam, the gastronomic and oenological writer who triggered the implosion of Enjoy your meal last summer by resurfacing the resigning photo editor-in-chief Adam rapoport in a racially insensitive costume, ad considering joining as a “food critic (or something)”. (Enjoy your meal, like Vanity Show, is owned by Condé Nast.) Teclemariam, whose ironic tone is in many ways reminiscent of Gawker’s in his heyday, has become somewhat of a whistleblower in the media industry; Announcing her hire, she praised Finnegan, “who promised to teach me how to be mean in over 240 characters.”

Even with a stellar new stable of writers, some Gawker alumni are skeptical of who is funding him. “The Bryan goldberg of it all is the $ 64,000 question, ”as Kamer put it. Goldberg, founder of Bustle Digital Group, and himself somewhat of a onlooker scoundrel at the time, was already supervising a Gawker’s failed raise (aka Gawker 2.0) around 2018 after buy the site at a bankruptcy auction. ” What are the limits ? Have limits been set? And what is the mandate? Kamer said. The new Gawker, Snyder added, “is going to have to coexist with what appears to be the proven model to create a BDG publication,” such as Elite Daily and Bustle. When I asked Finnegan how she planned to deal with BDG’s potentially stricter editorial constraints, compared to Gawker’s freedom in the past, she replied, “Unfortunately, I am not allowed to answer this question without approval. written by Bryan Goldberg and he is unreachable at the time on a wealthy island. Still, Finnegan has first-hand experience of how BDG works as the media company purchased The Outline in 2019, only for close it the next year. Joshua Topolsky, the founder of The Outline, has since been a top BDG officer, overseeing the content and strategy of his Culture & Innovation group; he will likely be involved in the revived Gawker. (A BDG spokesperson did not make Goldberg available for an interview.)

It remains to be seen whether Bustle-owned Gawker will similarly piss off those in power and, at times, turn the hammer on himself. Under Nick denton, Gawker operated in a spirit of radical transparency – that’s why you would have Finnegan, for example, live tweet what he said at a controversial staff meeting. At his best, Gawker was light years ahead of most media to aim Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Jeffrey Epstein and provided rare insight into the New York media, articles read by both its lower ranks and the plutocrats in the headlines. “Gawker has always been one of the places to ‘go’, to write open secrets,” Chan said. “He was able to both set the agenda and predict the agenda. “

But Gawker could strike as well, which happened more often in his later years, as blogging as an insurgent itself had become an established figure. “Punishing down has often never been a good idea for Gawker,” Kamer noted. It was like that, Snyder recalls, “when there was blood on the floor of the Condé Nast Tower”, in reference to a controversial article about an executive’s privacy – the deletion what caused the editor of the site at the time Maximum reading at to resign in protest, and other staff, including Finnegan, to take buyouts. A few days after the explosion, Denton ad his new vision for Gawker, reportedly told those who remained that he wanted it to be “20% more enjoyable”. (I asked to interview Read for this article, but he told me that he “suffered from a serious brain injury that erased my memory of everything that happened between the years 2010 and 2016.” )

What role could Gawker still play in 2021? In an email, Sicha choir, one of its former editors now cutting-edge newsletters at the Time, told me he was still trying to figure it out. “Gawker’s job (which he usually failed) was to tell the stories people didn’t want to be told. But now we have a lot of people doing that. Is not it ? Or are we laughing at ourselves? Snyder noted that there was also no shortage of platforms ready to host such content: “Anyone can set Twitter on fire with a Medium post if they have a sufficiently juicy story.

“Right now there’s a contradictory feeling that the landscape is crowded but also seamless,” Chan says of media in 2021, an industry dominated by either “huge industry titans all doing the same thing. Or “personal brand reporters who have the following to break” at places like Substack – a platform that Kamer thinks “will be nothing but a great source of material for Gawker,” a “littered of people who were insurgents in the media in 2005 ”who have since become wealthy targets. Snyder is of the opinion that the world needs something like Gawker but is not sure he should be called Gawker, what he said to the Guardian before Goldberg’s first attempt to wake up. “There are a lot of benefits to using the name,” he told me, SEO value probably being among them. “You probably wouldn’t write a story about pre-launching a site like Gawker, ”he notes. “But he comes with so much baggage.”

I interviewed various Gawker alumni, several of whom said they looked forward to but had little to say about the cover other than, like Emilie Gould write it in an email, being “glad someone has a job in the media right now, get that money”. When i asked Tom scocca, Slate’s political editor and long-time member of the Gawker Universe, what he thinks of the site’s comeback, he told me, “I’m reviewing Avengers: Endgame with my children after seeing Infinity war and it’s interesting to watch the Marvel Factory struggle to determine what a happy ending might look like after a brutal arbitrary slaughter followed by five years of trauma and loss.

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