Gawker Media executive editor John Cook announced Tuesday that Gawker.com is shifting its focus to politics. Gawker.com editor-in-chief Alex Pareene followed that up Wednesday morning with a memo stating “politics means the campaign, sure, but it also encompasses business, money, the Internet, culture, and most of the rest of the beats Gawker has always been on.”
Here’s the rest of his memo:
It is probably overdue for me to lay out my vision for Gawker, and how I plan, with your help, to achieve it.
It’s true: Gawker is going to become much more political. The Gawker I want to do is going to extensively cover politics, defined very broadly (and in more detail below). But at the most fundamental level, I want to be the editor of the Gawker that I want to read: One that is smart and arch and fast and slightly weird. Gawker should be a news outlet that regularly does what other news outlets would never do, because they’re too self-serious. Our ideal reader, and my ideal site, is smart as hell, but unpretentious./CONTINUES
And that reader is smart enough that she doesn’t need to be talked down to. Gawker needn’t point at things that everyone agrees are bad and say, “this is bad.” It shouldn’t exist in an echo chamber and it shouldn’t preach to the choir.
Gawker has always been independent in the best sense of the word. We’re in the tank for no candidate, but we’re not faux-objective self-styled “centrists.” We will always be honest with our readers about our points of view, our biases, and our positions, but we aren’t cheerleaders or partisans. Gawker is (obviously) not a Republican site, but it’s definitely not a Democratic site either. We can attack the Democratic frontrunner for the presidency–and our bizarrely under-appreciated Hillary Clinton reporting has been quite tough on her without going over-the-top into conspiratorial World Net Daily territory–but still agree that every single one of her Republican opponents would be apocalyptically disastrous presidents.
There is an untapped market for clever but informed commentary and reporting. I firmly believe this. The problem with Vox is that it’s utterly humorless and the problem with Buzzfeed is that so much of it is utterly stupid. And so we mock Buzzfeed for their viral garbage and Vox for their artless style, but if we’re going to do that, we *have to* make sure that we’re smarter, better, funnier, and sharper than the competition. I want every piece to have a point.
To that end, we’re going to stop doing some of the easy but pointless chuff that we’ve always leaned on for filler – no more “drunk Florida idiot dies in morbidly amusing fashion,” or “horrific crime happens in distant backwater.” I have a deep and abiding love for weird news and blood-and-guts tabloid crime reporting, but this is a rare opportunity to redefine what “a Gawker Story” is, and I don’t think we lose anything by dropping the American Grotesque beat. The ideal Gawker story should expose a meaningful hypocrisy, or reveal an emperor’s nudity, or hold the rare heroes actually working to un-fuck the world up for praise, or make an unexpected but necessary argument.
Or it should just make you laugh. That all sounds high-minded and self-important, so I should be clear that most of all I want Gawker to be fun, for us and for the reader. There’s a tendency to treat the presidential campaign as a joyless slog–which it certainly is!–and the American political, economic, and justice systems as deeply and utterly rotten–also true!–but we should be laughing at the absurdity of it all, not scolding or haranguing or moralizing. We should gleefully tweak the powerful and the corrupt, and illuminate the innate ridiculousness of Serious People.
Gawker’s always been quite good at deflating puffery and making the self-serious look silly, and in an increasingly self-serious media environment, where just about the only tones other outlets operate in are mindless blithering inanity or dreary wonkery, we are more necessary than ever before.
We at Gawker are uniquely situated: We can break the news *and* make fun of it. We can–and we have and will continue to – report the hell out of stories, and then we can deliver the commentary that makes sense of the news and, more importantly, the satire that helps people actually want to follow the news.
We are needed now more than ever. It’s utterly unacceptable that Donald Trump is a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and there’s no prominent national publication even attempting to embody the puckish spirit of SPY. That is bad for democracy, and we will work to address that.
It is a target-rich environment. We have the return of the Clintons, their bilious enemies, and their disreputable network of hangers-on and associates. We have the spectacle of Dr. Ben Carson taking his followers for an epic ride as he prepares the ultimate cash-out. We have the ongoing collapse of the Bush dynasty at the hands of its own GOB Bluth. We have, in Ted Cruz, an actual Reddit Troll Face comic come to life.
I think the outside interpretation of my taking this job will be “Gawker is becoming a politics blog,” and much of this memo has focused on the campaign – with good reason, as the American presidential election is the most absurd but consequential pageant in the world – but, I promise you, I don’t want to be the editor of Talking Points Memo.
Politics means the campaign, sure, but it also encompasses business, money, the Internet, culture, and most of the rest of the beats Gawker has always been on. Politics means Duck Dynasty and the Duggars, and it means asshole cops and campus PC wars, and Lena Dunham’s gratis work for her friend Audrey Gelman’s clients. It means MSNBC’s internal wars and Roger Ailes versus Lachlan Murdoch; Hollywood diversity paroxysms; Scientology; misbehaving Saudi princes and ostentatious second-generation Chinese rich kids; Anonymous versus ISIS; GamerGate; homeless trans kids and attempted Republican outreach to the wealthy gay donor network. It means calculating how much Mike Bloomberg has paid in salary to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin per viewer of their terrible show. (Keenan, get on that.) And it means having our unique, funny, and fearless voices reporting from the campaign trail (and closer to home, with Hillary Clinton headquartered in nearby Brooklyn).
So much of what you are already doing not only fits in my vision of the site, but helped to inspire it: Allie on Christian YouTubers, Gabby’s fast and sharp campaign blogging and news coverage, Hamilton on rich assholes and the death penalty, Ashley’s explorations of Internet fever swamps and deconstructions of Donald Trump, Sam on the shitty memes of the KKK and the tragic (eventual) deflation of the runaway blimp, Andy’s ongoing and vital work on policing, Keenan on Philippe Reines and Fox News, Jordan’s thoughtful pieces on idealistic protesting college kids, Rich’s nuanced takes on the political meanings of cultural products and his conversations with smart and important filmmakers like Frederick Wiseman; all of these are exactly the sorts of things what I want to see more of. I’ll be checking in with each of you over the rest of the week to talk more about my grand scheme and how you fit in it.
Then I want to spend the rest of this year working with all of you to dream up new features, stunts, columns, field trips, videos, and more. And soon, with all of your help, I’ll get to work on re-inaugurating my annual end-of-year list of the worst in political punditry.
Unfortunately, as part of the transition, we’ve lot some very talented people. It’s painful, and I hope you all know that I wish this wasn’t the case. But very soon we’ll be casting a wide net to help build the diverse (in every sense of the word) collection of talents necessary to carry out this plan.
Finally, I have a message for those who would seek to do us harm, and who hate us for our freedom: We will not back down. The 500 Days of Kristin will be completed as scheduled.