I recently saw a Globe and Mail interview with David Carr in which he mentioned Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan and how “he will just step up and fill somebody with ack ack.” (Bill Keller the target?) The New York Times media columnist added: “I think to myself: Hmm, whether it was true or not, it was executed with a great deal of vigor, in a way I probably do not do any more.”
Carr made his observations just as I was sending questions to Nolan for this Q-and-A. I called the Timesman and asked him to elaborate on what he told the Toronto paper.
He had mostly praise for Nolan.
“He has a style that’s built on anti-style, and I find it very compelling to read,” said Carr. “I very much admire what he does until he does it to someone I like, and then I don’t like it much.
“I think Bill Keller is a great editor, and Hamilton does not agree. And he says it over and over.”
Nolan’s a boxer, Carr noted, “and he’s got those heavy hands. I don’t think he’s a boxer that dances around. I think he comes right at you.”
I then asked Nolan, 33, what he thought of Carr’s comments in the Globe and Mail.
“I guess my thought would just be that, I’ve never considered myself the smartest person in the media or the best writer, but I do pride myself on working somewhere where we tell people the truth,” said Nolan, who joined Gawker from PR Week in 2008.
“The thing I like most about Gawker is that we are able to dispense with all of the politesse bullshit that surrounds so much establishment journalism and just speak the truth (as we see it, at least). We’re not required to hem and haw and couch what we want to say in euphemisms. If something is bullshit, we can say “this is bullshit.
“I think that this is ultimately Gawker’s most important role in the media. Amid all the funny things and time-wasting things and ridiculous things we publish, we tell the truth, in far more direct way than readers can find in most other places. And I sincerely believe this is noble, even if we sometimes surround it in a bunch of cat videos. One of the old proposed but not adopted slogans for the site was, “Honesty is our only virtue.” I like that.
More from the email Q-and-A:
You’re the longest-tenured Gawker writer? How did that happen? Who’s next on the list?
Not the longest Gawker Media employee, but I believe longest tenured writer ever for Gawker, as far as I know. I was hired same time as Richard Lawson and Ryan Tate, who have both moved on now. Not sure who is second longest, although people like AJ Daulerio and Jessica Coen have a long time at the company, but split between different sites.
I’m pretty happy here. It’s a good job in that it offers you both freedom as a writer, and a big audience. At most places you only get one or the other. Also, I can work from home sometimes. And there’s free coffee. And I never have to wear slacks and shit. It’s a nice lifestyle.
Tell us something about Nick Denton that’s never been reported.
When I first started, Nick was the editor of Gawker and we all used to work out of his apartment every Monday. We did that for months. Every Monday. Earlier this year I was talking to him and I brought it up and he said, “You used to work out of my apartment? I don’t remember that.”
So the best strategy around here is just to remain invisible.
You grew up in St. Augustine, Fla., then went to Howard University for 3 years. Why there? What was that like?
I went to Howard because I was really into hip hop, and Howard is basically hip hop university. Liked it very much. It’s a unique opportunity for a white person in America to be a minority for a while. Three years at Howard, took a year off, eventually finished school back in St. Augustine at Flagler College.
When did you decide to become a journalist?
I never really consciously decided, it just turned out that writing was really my only marketable skill. I wrote for a comedy magazine that Chris Rock started at Howard while I was there. At Flagler I started writing for Folio Weekly, the alt-weekly in Jacksonville, where the editor, Anne Schindler, basically gave me my break into journalism (thanks Anne!). After I graduated I was a staff writer for Folio for… less than a year I think, then moved to NYC just because I always wanted to. When I got here I got the job at PR Week, via a job ad on Mediabistro.
PRW was a trade magazine and not my dream job obviously, but it was educational. Learned to write fast, clean, newsy, for specific word counts, on deadline. Learned a whole lot about the PR industry, which often acts as the unseen half of the media industry. Although I find the PR industry distasteful in a lot of ways, the real scandal is the extent to which they are intertwined with (and have a powerful effect on) journalism, which is something that is ultimately the responsibility of the media itself, not the PR industry. Flacks are doing their jobs, for better or worse./CONTINUES