Well, we did it. We killed Gawker. Good ‘ol fashioned journalism saved the day. Readers finally turned their backs on the website and returned to print newspapers, causing its collapse. We did it, folks. We won.
At least, that’s what some of us had wished had happened. For so long, traditional media has been fighting back against the Gawkers and BuzzFeeds, they probably never thought they would actually get to see the demise of one of their competitors. But it did happen, but not at the hands of print media making a spectacular comeback.
It was at the hands of a professional wrestler and a billionaire. By now you’ve read all the details about the lawsuit between Hulk Hogan and Gawker (it involved a sex tape) and how wealthy tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel helped finance the legal efforts against the company. The $140 million lawsuit resulted in Gawker filing for bankruptcy in June. Univision acquired the media company in August, but decided against bringing Gawker.com into its fold. Instead, the website shut down Aug. 22. In the last post published on the website, former Gawker CEO Nick Denton called it the “end of an era.”
When Gawker launched in 2003, its focus was on news and gossip in New York City. Over time, their coverage expanded and the stories they wrote were seen as controversial, offensive and downright mean. After the company came under fire last year for publishing an article about a married male media executive soliciting a gay escort, Denton pledged Gawker would become “10 to 15 percent” nicer. Unfortunately, this new version of Gawker couldn’t escape its history. The Hogan sex tape, which was originally published on the website in 2012, would eventually become its undoing.
Reactions to the closure were mixed. Simon Dumenco of AdAge wrote that it wasn’t Thiel who killed Gawker; Gawker killed itself, comparing its death as a form of “autoerotic asphyxiation.”
Dumenco wrote in the August article (bit.ly/2c0G93i), “Gawker simply didn’t know when to hit the brakes—or maybe it didn’t even know how to operate the brakes. It slammed into a tree or crashed through the guardrail and over the cliff… By the logic of this narrative, Gawker killed itself. We can’t rule it a suicide, though, because clearly Gawker didn’t intend to die.”
On the other hand, Trevor Trimm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation presented a few questions to those who were celebrating Gawker’s demise (bit.ly/2bNnG6h).
Among them are:
“Do you think it’s fair and just that Gawker—which employees dozens of journalists and staff that had nothing to do with the Hogan story—receive what amounted to the death penalty for one serious lapse in editorial judgement?”
“If you think, but ‘Gawker outed Peter Thiel in 2007 and they posted other distasteful stories over the years too,’ do you also think they should be punished for those posts in the court of law, even if they are considered protected speech?”
“Do you agree with the variety of other lawsuits and legal threats that Gawker has endured from Peter Thiel’s lawyer that have nothing to do with the Hulk Hogan tape?”
And then there’s this one: “Do you think that because Gawker’s demise is something you agree with that the same thing won’t happen to newspapers you like in the future?”
If you loved them or hated them, you have to admit the death of Gawker truly does mean the end of an era. It just depends if were ready for that time to end or not.