What Was Gawker? 

Image by Jim Cooke

Wherever you go in this life, there is some jerk telling you what to do. Almost always. But not always.

If you are very lucky, you might find a place where you can do what you want. If you are very fortunate, you may one day find a place where you can be as inane, brilliant, cockeyed, or stupid as you wish, in front of the entire world. I found it at Gawker. I hope you find it somewhere at least once before you die.

Most journalism jobs exist on a continuum between audience and freedom. If you want a lot of people to pay attention to you, you work at a place where the individual writer’s voice is completely subsumed into the institutional voice. If you want complete freedom to write whatever the hell you want, you write on your personal Tumblr, where the whole world will ignore you. Gawker was one of the few places ever to exist that offered both a large, steady audience and almost complete freedom.

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Gawker was just a giant, empty page waiting to be filled, every day. It was a page large enough and deep enough to accept whatever you wanted to put on it. Serious things and non-serious things could sit side-by-side. News and inside jokes and essays and whatever idea had popped into your mind last night unbidden. Everything. Instead of just muttering your thoughts to yourself like all the other hobos, you could put them here, where potentially millions of bored people would read them and yell at you. Who will we state our unsolicited thoughts to now? The sky, I guess.

Most attempts to explain this publication’s editorial direction tell you more about the person doing the explaining than they do about this publication. With a little cherry-picking you can make it seem like our focus was just about anything. In truth, we had no focus. We had writers. Gawker was what its writers wrote. When the writers were great, the site was great, and when the writers were less than great, you get the idea. Gawker was anarchist journalism at its finest. Every day, a page to be filled; every day, a chance for greatness, or idiocy. This site contains the very best and worst things that many writers have written. This fact drives many people mad. But to the sort of person who was cut out to be a Gawker writer, it was just right. It was better than having a byline in the New York Times; it was having the chance to say fuck the New York Times. In a place where the New York Times would see it!

While Gawker did not have a real editorial direction, it did have a sensibility. Imagine a group of reporters gazing upon a lavishly decorated Barneys display window. One reporter remarks upon the fine craftsmanship of the interior decoration and artfully arrayed Louboutin heels within. One reporter discusses the marketing strategy for these luxury heels, and how this might contribute to the company’s bottom line. And the Gawker reporter throws a rock through the window and screams, “It’s just a fuckin shoe!”

Some people like this sensibility and some people don’t. There is no wrong answer.

A Gawker editor of the past coined the slogan, “Honesty is our only virtue.” That will do as well as anything. Many Gawker readers did not think we were the best writers, nor did they even particularly like us; they read Gawker because they knew that we would tell the truth about whatever was happening. No bullshit. Well, some bullshit. You can’t have great ideas every day.

Blogging is not a real job. Construction is a real job. Working in a restaurant is a real job. Being a teacher is a real job. Blogging is something you get to do. It is a quirky form of daily journalism, falling somewhere between live TV news and magazine writing, calling for sharp news judgment, an irrational taste for argument, and a complete absence of high standards. Anyone who made a living doing this for one single day is luckier than most. We are certainly grateful for the chance we had to type things for you all.

This is not the end. It’s just a fuckin shoe.

Gawker