To Gawker! Four stories from its journalistic innovators
For almost a decade now, I’ve been privileged to count myself among the people in tech who enjoy the crossover into media and Gawker was at the center of that overlap. Whether it be their roof parties on Elizabeth Street, the spontaneous gatherings at The Magician and Tom & Jerry’s (or even the Gawker TV Trivia Nights at my old bar, Destination), it was a ubiquitous presence.
Plenty has been written about why it died. There’s no need for me to address that, nor am I the right person to do so.
Instead, I‘d like to celebrate the extraordinary people that Gawker has set loose in the media world who are, for the most part, making journalism a better, more innovative place — especially at a time when the media industry is crumbling around itself.
I’m proud to call many of them friends.
Over the past two years, I’ve spoken to almost 100 tech and media people on my podcast, Story in a Bottle. Many of them have touched Gawker in some way or another, but there are four who were there, on the ground. So, let those who helped shape and shift the future of the industry tell the tale way better than I ever could.
Elizabeth Spiers (or download on iTunes)
As the founding editor of Gawker, Elizabeth changed the face of writing for the web. She established one of the best-known, snarky voices on the internet, posting quickly and fastidiously, for only $1200 per month. Since, she’s become the editor-in-chief of the New York Observer and now runs her own content-oriented company, The Insurrection.
Lockhart Steele (or download on iTunes)
Though he’d been passionate about content since elementary school, Lock really began breaking boundaries and formats at Gawker, in addition to his successful self-published-turned-professionally-published book about jam band Phish (the Pharmer’s Almanac). His experience at the blog network lead to him ultimately commit to his vision with Curbed, which sold to Vox in 2014. Since then, he’s continued to exceed the limitations of the status quo in business, publishing, and writing. He attributes much of his progress to the people — the investors, mentors, partners, and teams — who have steered him in key moments of his career and ultimately, whose collaboration have created that “secret sauce” which is so important to the evolutions of innovative products.
Richard Blakeley (or download on iTunes)
Blakeley’s career has always been about pushing the boundaries of content. As Head of the Gawker Media Video Department from 2006 through 2011, he’s pioneered the importance of a voice in video and branded content. Since Gawker, he has founded The Webutante Ball, helped shaped the digital strategy of Thrillist and People.com and now is the Senior Director of Product at SheKnows.com, the largest destination for women’s content on the internet.
Mark Graham (or download on iTunes)
The world of Gawker editors shifted hands a few times in the 14 years of it’s existence. In 2007, Nick Denton even offered it to Graham, only to rescind it later claiming that Mark wouldn’t be a good fit for the job and Denton eventually (and temporarily) took on the job himself. But for Graham, his time at Gawker really helped shape his view of media and what it could be. Since then, he has way moved on to being the editor-in-chief of The New York Post’s Decider.com. He also likes Bud Lite’s Lime-a-Rita’s, which I will forever hold against him.
So many other guests are have their own Gawker links, just highlighting the amazing reach and impact it truly had on its readers and community. To give you a sense, of the 90-something people we’ve interviewed on Story in a Bottle, Gawker has written at one point or another about almost half of them. Here they are: Rick Webb, Brooke Hammerling, Scott Beale, Rex Sorgatz, Soraya Darabi, Steve Martocci, Lindsay Kaplan, Caroline Waxler,Chris O’Leary, Caroline McCarthy, David Kassan, Rafat Ali, Gavin Purcell,Kate Lee, Allison Mooney, Kevin Kearney, Aubrey Sabala, Seth Porges, Fred Graver, Mark Mangan, Dennis Crowley, Michael Pryor, Erick Schonfeld,Maya Baratz, Jay Parkinson, Chris Messina, Hilary Mason, Jessica Beck,Rachel Sklar, Tony Hendra, Meghan (Keane) Graham, Albert Wegner, Dan Frommer, Andrea Syrtash, Wesley Verhoeve, Allison Schrager, Stephen Elliot, Jenny Boylan, Blogologues, and Maddy Maxey.
Thanks for the 14 years of coverage, Gawker. It wasn’t always pretty, I didn’t always agree, but I’m really glad you existed and the world of media and tech is all the better for it.