Print journalism is dead. The body is cold, the fluids have been drained. No matter what efforts might be made to charge for content, keep newspaper articles offline or even ban hotlinking, it’s still pancake makeup on a corpse. The cut-and-paste crews of internet blogs like Gawker.com are just too good at stealing original reporting and photography and handing it out for free. They label it as their own, have some recent college grad add a few catty remarks and it’s perfect for a 30-second rub on your lunch break. Who wants to wrestle with those grubby and oversized sheets of the Daily Bugle anymore anyhow?
Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. Newspaper editorial boards have always been hotbeds of pretentious ivory-tower liberals with no place else to go. Beat reporters are unabashedly attention-starved democrats who stir the pot with cries of injustice and their “Down with the Establishment!” takes on local happenings. Their monopoly on small town issues has affected the tenor of municipal politics for the very worst, giving city councils, PTA boards and neighborhood groups an unwarranted platform for their shortsighted radical agendas. Most normal citizens have been stuck with these offensively one-sided disinformation sources for decades. And they wonder why we turn to Rush and O’Reilly?
Well, what comes next? Like Fidel Castro emerging from the jungle and suddenly realizing he has a country to run, Gawker.com has surprisingly fallen into a leadership role for the next generation of journalists. And, as in Cuba, most citizens of the internet don’t have a clue about the inept, bankrupt future that awaits them at the hands of this salty steno pool of blogging b*stards.
Investigative journalists like myself may be a touch old and old-fashioned these days, but we’re still lucid enough to sense the future. Gawker started out covering the nasty inbred world of the New York media elite (a creepy place where sources are traded as often as pubic lice), but lately it has branched out into politics, celebrity gossip and homosexual activism. The site is a constant flow of the latest major news stories, broken down to simplistic soundbites and then given a layer of all-too-predictable sarcasm. With its hardcore following of young journalism-school grads and aspiring bloggers, it has become the Preppy Handbook for the internet arriviste age. Wear pink shorts and pick up a lacrosse stick, the blog tells its eager readers, or rather dress yourself in disdain and carry a superiority complex. You’ll make waves and money, not by looking deeply at the profound moral issues of our time, but with headlines like “Madoonna Topless” or “Tom Cruise + Scientology.” They are the cut and runners, attacking some of our noblest public figures (such as US soldiers guarding embassies in Afghanistan and Glenn Beck), and then scampering off behind some bush to hide from the aftermath and count their precious page views.
Like an obnoxious drunk at an expensive restaurant, Gawker takes every opportunity to tell you how terribly smart and sophisticated it is. It crows over its insider status, barking to anyone that will listen that it has exclusive behind-the-scenes secrets to share, if only you keep clicking. It reinforces the myth that its audience and tipsters are the elite of the elite, the real insiders and power players. But the truth is that it’s more like the Ozzy Osbourne of the media. Ozzy made a pile of cash off the idea that he played music for disenchanted motorcycle-riding adults, while in reality selling it by the busload to 15-year old boys who drive Schwinns and have body odor issues. Gawker’s fanbase is equally repulsive: the ex-Ivy Leaguer, with no investment banking, medical, legal or engineering skills and zero willingness to contribute to our society with actual hard work. They are the refuse of our liberal arts programs, with enough money from their families to rent a studio apartment and buy drinks for strange men in bars til 3am, but without the gumption to embark on a career or, for the women, a family (marriage and children do not fit into the Gawker Ethos for Women). They are the ultimate hipster-hating hipsters, facial-haired and Asian-obsessed sexual scientists, dry humping every pot-bellied New York Times-approved trend til it chafes their vintage-store sweaters. Or else they are the older, bitter versions of these creatures, whose careers have stalled just below management level and find petty rebellion in stealing twenty minutes online on their office computers, unaware that their corporate IT departments are logging each keystroke and biding the time until these annoying employees have outlived their $45k-a-year usefulness. You used to think black clothes were cool, didn’t you? Now you pray that they’re slimming.
And I can barely get started on the baroque phase of Gawker web design, ornamented with unused widgetry and a commenting system thought-policed by humorless matrons who promote only the most unoriginal and obsequious of discussions. Membership in this privileged group of commenters is by approval only, but it’s about as hard to get into as a San Francisco bathhouse on a Sunday, and its clientele is probably equally as undressed.
If you really think Gawker doesn’t pose a threat to American news and American values, just take a look at a few of the websites and careers it has spawned: Perez Hilton, David Carr, Queerty, BryanBoy and The Huffington Post. Should they not be held accountable for this? I do appreciate that Gawker pummeled the Rocky Mountain News, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Globe, but that still doesn’t make up for enabling Perez with hair dye and Corel Draw. Denton, aren’t you at all ashamed?
A very reliable source offered me more earfuls of excrement about this blog than I really care to share. Suffice it to say that this person is a perfect example of this new era of internet “ethics.” Alcohol was all the bribery required to get the inside goods on the cast of characters who daily type up the steady stream of foul-smelling discourse that emanates from this website. Well, here are my “exclusive behind-the-scenes secrets” of the Gawker brain trust:
Nick Denton, Owner: A fragrant Englishman who has a real penchant for surrounding himself with underpaid boys who will do almost anything for the crumbs of praise that this acerbic, aging millionaire rarely hands out. Denton is infamous in certain circles for throwing flamboyant rooftop parties where rumors of spiked punch and flaccid intergenerational explorations never seem to make it into the very gossip pages that his bloggers harass every moment of every day.
Gabriel Snyder: Like an aging prostitute, he has whored himself out to so many different press outlets, that he no longer feels the pain when he’s being stuffed with the liberal media’s latest enormous latex lies. He merely tells them to put a $5 bill in his flannel shirt and wake him when it’s over.
Richard and Hamilton: Their lifeblood is the hateful whisperings of a hundred Hollywood hairdressers. Why don’t you two just admit you deserve each other and open up that B&B in Rehoboth Beach?
Alex Pareene: This poor soul foolishly slithers into political issues far over his head. His diatribes, however, are bitter and punctuated with enough quotes from MSNBC’s resident lesbian, Rachel Maddow, to swing his young readers into line. Surely they repeat Alex’s cute QEDs over flavored vodkas in dark gay bars across the country each evening before exploding into techno music dancing or bathroom cocaine prostitutions.
Choire Sicha: Once the chain-smoking Leni Resinfail of New York’s blogosphere, whispering in his dear leader’s ear and getting the little people synchronized for his lens, he now lives in postwar obscurity, trying to reclaim his artiste status with witty pleas like “Be Less Stupid Now” and servicey columns on such pressing topics as “Lying to Your Doctor About How That Hamster Got Stuck Up There” on a blog with his old bunkmate Adam something or other.
Elizabeth Spiers: The original mouseketeer, this bespeckled and ego-bloated sack of a woman somehow convinced herself that blogging about the personal hygiene of New York Post gossip columnists blessed her with some sort of financial insight, insight which she then used to start a media networking collective that could never quite compete with the influence of gay bars and Craig’s List in the New York media world, though she cashed in enough to buy a large apartment (but not enough to actually decorate the place).
Andrew Krucoff: Aka “The Condė Nast Thief.” He was an infamously hirsute Hebrew hedonist who served as the the Gawker office “furry” (costumed like a child’s toy but sweating from discount booze on the inside). Sadly, he did not keep up with Denton’s increasingly aristocratic predilections. No one knows whatever became of Andy, whether he was banished to some self-publsihing blogging service or if his remains are buried under the boardwalk of Denton’s Fire Island safe house.
Jessica & Lock: I didn’t forget you. I just tried very hard to forget you.
(This article was originally published in 2009.)