Gawker staffers started their week with this note from the editor-in-chief:
From: Max Read
Date: Monday, July 13, 2015
To: Gawker Writers
Between Food Babe, O’Reilly, the Duggars, and the recent Reddit storms, we’ve had a good few months, but we’re coasting on our successes and slipping at the margins. Cucumber season is here, and it’s easy, in the wake of good stories and solid traffic, to get lazy and let the day-to-day work decline in quality. It’s also the worst time to do so. Keep the following in mind as you work:
1) Headlines — as I said in Slack the other day headlines are slowly getting lazier and more boring (on the one hand) or too cutesy and self-amused (on the other). If they’re too straightforward, they’ll put readers to sleep; if they’re too ironic or in-jokey, they’ll drive readers away. We can be descriptive and also intriguing, challenging without being alienating.
Headlines should inspire a reaction, tell a good story, express an opinion (ideally, all three!); as much as anything else, they’re a good gut-check to make sure your story has an angle or a point. If you can’t come up with a good headline for your post, you need to ask yourself why you’re writing it.
2) Glibness — is our worst and most frequent sin. You can be blunt and candid without being glib. Gawker is a very loud megaphone, and its history means it’s accompanied by set of often unfair expectations about tone and angle. When people assume everything you say is meant to be cruel or mean-spirited, a small amount of sarcasm goes a very long way.
This is as much a rhetorical strategy as anything. We can subtly and correctly acknowledge that Christian Audigier’s clothing was worn by horrible people, or that Reddit is a hive of scum and villainy (to name two recent examples we talked through in edits), without overburdening posts with weak or overwrought jokes. Commenters will always make the bluntest and most obvious jokes; let’s leave those to them.
3) Obsession — Our most recent big, excellent, smart stories–Allie on the Duggars, Ashley on Reddit and Victoria Taylor, Andy on the subway shooting, Keenan on Buzzfeed–have come because writers became obsessed–they came across a big (or small) story, dove deep, wrote it all down, and asked every question that came up–blogging the whole time. Even in cases where we aren’t able to break the news or get the scoop, obsession leads to the kind of smart, comprehensive, popular, can’t-find-it-anywhere-else stuff that we’re all proud of.
This kind of story-hunting obsession is the first that goes when we start feeling ourselves too much. (Or when we spend too much time dicking around in Slack.) Allow your obsessions to carry you; whatever you do, don’t ever throw up your hands and figure someone else will do it, or that we’ll get it next time. If you’re having trouble prioritizing, talk to me or Leah B and we’ll help. And generally, on all these points, avail yourselves of your editors and Politburo! We’re here to help.