As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Gawker, a news blog that helped shape journalism in the digital age, has been forced into bankruptcy by the founder of PayPal and vindictive billionaire, Peter Theil. Gawker ceased publication this week, leaving a major hole in America’s media landscape. It seems pretty clear to me that allowing wealthy interests to use courts to silence the free press is a serious threat to democracy. If you don’t agree, I have a few questions for you, but this post won’t convince you otherwise.
So many of my friends who worked with me on the Western Front — objectively the best college newspaper in America, nay, the world, while I was editor in chief — have gone on to become celebrated reporters at places like Buzzfeed and Gawker. While outlets like these may have once upon a time started out as click farms, they became some of the leading outlets for investigative and hard hitting journalism. Plus, they’re a great place to spend your lunch break on the web.
This post is a round up of my personal all-time favorite Gawker pieces. <3 u forever, Gawker. RIP.
I’m going to say something that I know you won’t believe, but it’s the truth: This piece by Caity Weaver, a bad ass lady journo who I
have a very serious crush on respect immensely, is the funniest thing on the Internet. I know. That’s a bold claim. But it’s the truth. Weaver spends 14 hours searching for the bottom of a mozzarella cheese stick appetizer pit. I have honestly read this story at least ten times, and every time, I lol at this line (full disclosure, I also lol at like 20 other lines in the story):
4:36 p.m. (4.5 hours into the quest) I realize that my shoulders have, of their own volition, begun slipping up and down to the tune of “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet. I am now an active participant in the casual fun TGI Friday’s atmosphere.
My friends and I were in such disbelief that Weaver could only eat four plates of mozzarella sticks in 14 hours that we actually planned our own TGI Fridays outing. We were in that hell hole of a restaurant for hours, and between the three of us, we still only finished two plates. We also tried the potato skins and pot stickers — because surely all the apps can’t be this bad?! — and they all tasted like the same variety of Styrofoam.
Truvada is the commercial name for one drug used in the ARV cocktail that treats HIV. In 2012, it was approved as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to protect HIV negative people from picking up the virus. Now thousands (millions?) of men who have sex with men are grappling with whether they should be taking the drug. This essay by Rich Juzwiak is a deeply personal and relatable account of what it means to engage in “risky” activity, and how those norms impact how we take care of ourselves. Whether you’re gay or straight, you will be left thinking about this piece for days after finishing it.
“It’s much easier to go on believing that you don’t need [Truvada], that you’ll be fine because you’ve been fine so far, that Truvada is for sluts sluttier than yourself.
I get that. There is considerable stigma to using it. Some of my friends were horrified when I told them I was on it. I saw a few different doctors while I was on it, and they routinely asked me if it was because of my “…behavior…?” (I think the translation was, “You takin’ raw loads, boy?”)
Some real talk for you: I’m obsessed with cults. I think they’re the most fascinating things of all time. So imagine my surprise when I discovered this cult is preying on women just like my friends and me, in our own back yards. Jezebel reporter Anna Merlan (Jezebel is a Gawker sub-site) was the first to break this story, because I believe no other major media outlets really cared enough. Anything where 20-something women are involved is seen as frivolous, “basic,” etc. The New York Times and other old school media outlets never would’ve covered this, but Gawker cut through the crap to find that this is truly a Grade-A Cult, with the hallmarks of emotional, sexual, and physical abuse.
“Scherick had specific ideas about what type of sex was best, Poppy adds.
“Having anal sex was a marker of being a true, fierce powerful woman. The length of your orgasms were also markers of how intense your feminine power was.” In the higher levels, she said, “We had phone calls having to share how long our orgasms were, the positions we masturbated in. People were claiming to have like 30-minute orgasms.”
Scherick’s justification for all of this was that he was trying “to give you a better feminine experience,” Poppy says.”
Reddit has become an insane online powerhouse, capable of sending millions of unique visitors to anything linked on the site. In digital reporting, that translates to millions of ad views if your article is linked from Reddit – and that means money! That’s why I was so impressed that Gawker went after Violentacrez/Michael Brutsch.
The backlash from Reddit was immediate. The site banned all Gawker links and affiliate links. I cannot overstate how big a deal that is – Gawker chose to run a story they knew was important, despite knowing they would literally be throwing money away. This story ran four years ago, and just the fact that Gawker was able to stay afloat without the Reddit pageview machine for four years is impressive.
Plus, this story confronts something I believe in: Anonymous speech isn’t a protected form of free speech. If you want to post gifs of domestic violence, share sexualized photos of teenage girls, and write posts about white supremacy, you should be prepared to have your name attached to those thoughts.
“On the phone, Michael Brutsch insisted he is not a pedophile but was unapologetic about Jailbait. He compared the photos of underage girls he posted to Britney Spears’ sultry “Hit Me Baby One More Time” video. She was 16 at the time, he said—how was that different than what he was doing?”
It’s easy to forget that we all knew Bill Cosby had been accused of drugging and raping several women for years. YEARS. Like, at least since People Magazine ran a pretty big story in 2006. And yet no one cared. No one wanted to live in a world where Bill Cosby was a rapist, and so we didn’t.
After Gawker ran this story in 2014, it prompted the fresh media frenzy. A trial date still hasn’t been set.
“With shocking speed, it was effectively forgotten. When the subject came up today, more than half the Gawker staff had no memory of any sexual allegations against Bill Cosby. In 2009, Cosby was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for his distinguished achievements in humor.”
Honestly, just read this.
And Caity Weaver, pleasecallmeImissyoualready.