That Gawker Media gets a bad rap is no surprise to me. I worked there for some four years, and bigger than that, I cut my teeth there — Nick Denton is the man to whom I owe my career; he taught me to write fearlessly, though oftentimes the writing I did is stuff that I’m ashamed of to this day. I could list myriad posts of mine from that era that still fill me with despair, but I’m instead going to relegate them to the murky pools of youthful idiocy and glean, tonight, only the good things.
The good things are this: That fearlessness. That obnoxious obstinance in the face of a general media that says that you’re not exactly *wrong* in questioning lazily held truths, but that you’re being needling, that you’re demanding too much from a subject who’s a consistent provider of easy soundbites. It’s a good thing, this nagging Gawker insistence that the whole media empire (not to get too Bret Easton Ellis about it) is a casual wasteland, a place of easy access and pandering and soft-pedal jerk-offery that deserves to be ridiculed, mocked, picked apart, tarnished. That Gawker instinct is right. It’s not really what we were doing back in 2008 or 2009, but the way Gawker has, for better and definite worse, evolved, is positive, I think. The sites continually insist that, though I personally may have eventually been cowed by the emperor and fled, he still has no goddamned clothes. So I love that Gawker and Deadspin and other sites exist, because that rudeness is so necessary. And we should all question why we find it rude to begin with.
My friend Alex, perhaps the most prestigious of all Gawker alums, wrote this beautiful piece about the vapidity of sites like Politico. About how dumb and soundbite-driven political media is, in constant pursuit of easy angles and comfortable, package-ready plot lines. And if you look at today’s Deadspin post, this Notre Dame thing, it’s completely telling that all major sports outlets completely dropped the ball on it. Just totally shitted the bed on doing even the most minor bit of digging required to show that some grand washed-over, soft-focus, readily accepted media yarn was a complete fabrication.
Gawker’s prickishness, and its borderline sociopathic commanding officer, bring those things to light. The company gets many things wrong, but one thing it doesn’t get wrong is the way it never traffics in beholden-ness. It may seem like a stark religion to hold nothing sacred, but Gawker’s arrogant unflinching in the face of commonly accepted wisdom is, oftentimes, nothing but admirable.
There is a lot that I did there that I’m still embarrassed about, and worse. And lots they do over there that I currently shake my head at and wonder why. But in those moments when this barking, brutal cultural ombudsman gets it right? Says, haha, I caught you and you done goofed? Man is that satisfying. And it will be forever, no matter how long ago I worked there. There is an intrinsic value to that place — they blunder and fuck up and tear through things witlessly, but they are unafraid and unapologetic and, most importantly, free of quid-pro-quo debt. Reading something so unburdened by politeness and access is refreshing. I hope you find that true too.