How are you supposed to feel about the fact that Gawker.com is shutting down this week? Very sad, apparently, if the recent wave of Gawker praise in the media is any guidance.
Univision’s announced acquisition of Gawker Media blogs Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel and Kotaku last week — a sale forced by Gawker Media’s bankruptcy following a $140 million ruling against it in Hulk Hogan’s invasion-of-privacy lawsuit — is making plenty of media observers suddenly nostalgic about the Gawker Media flagship that nobody wanted. (“Desirable though the other properties are,” Gawker Media founder Nick Denton wrote in a note to his staff, “we have not been able to find a single media company or investor willing also to take on Gawker.com.”)
The New York Post’s Lia Eustachewich, for instance, referred to Gawker on Friday as “Nick Denton’s beloved gossip site” — which is just surreal, because while it was still alive, Gawker made a UFC-worthy spectacle of bashing the Post.
In a piece titled “Gawker is dead: An appreciation,” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote, “There are so many good writers out there who are better, directly or indirectly, thanks to the site’s fearlessness, aggressiveness and attitude. Gawker made its opponents better. Gawker and its writers, despite some steps backward, made the web better. It made the web what it is.”
And Slate’s editors pulled together a list of more than a dozen of their favorite Gawker stories over the years in a post titled “Gawker Is Dead. These Posts Are Why We’ll Miss It.”
By the way, in a sign of just how deeply embedded Gawker is in the media-industrial complex, the Slate post included this disclaimer: “When it comes to Gawker we are conflicted out the wazoo. One Slate editor is married to a Gawker editor. One is married to a lawyer who represented Gawker in the Hulk Hogan trial. One is a former Gawker Media executive editor. None of these Slate staffers worked on this roundup.”
Like the Slate staff, I’ve got my own convoluted relationship with Gawker, which formally launched in January 2003, just a few months after Nick Denton registered the Gawker.com URL. This is a story I’ve told before, but I’ll tell it again here: In the summer of that year, when I was an editor-at-large at New York Magazine, I took Elizabeth Spiers, Gawker’s first writer, out for coffee with the intention of poaching her. (Elizabeth’s title at Gawker was “editor,” but she was its only writer, and the only writer she was editing was herself.) By the fall, she decided to jump ship to NYMag — announcing her surprise departure in a wry statement on her personal blog titled “I sell out.”
I was an early fan of Gawker — in New York magazine I called it “erratic, funny, bitchy, passionate and obsessive to the point of being a little demented” — and I was friendly with not only Elizabeth, but Gawker owner Nick. To his credit, Nick was a good sport about Elizabeth’s departure and we remained friendly; my theory was that, as much as Nick loved Elizabeth, he was also eager to find out if the Gawker brand was bigger than his star blogger.
"Luke Ford reports all of the 'juicy' quotes, and has been doing it for years." (Marc B. Shapiro)
"This guy knows all the gossip, the ins and outs, the lashon hara of the Orthodox world. He’s an [expert] in... all the inner workings of the Orthodox world." (Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff)
"This generation's Hillel." (Nathan Cofnas)