Founding “The Gawker Foundation”
The Gawker Foundation started as most Gawker stories came to be — late at night, at a bar, with a few close friends and former colleagues. The conversation centered around what would happen to the archives, and one of the editors I was sitting with made a half-joke about buying them. That drunken hypothetical conversation turned serious fairly quickly, and a few days later I set out to figure out the best legal structure to raise money and make a bid.
I realized a few things in short order: 1) There was a certain degree of potential liability associated with the archives that would make it hard to find sizable investors. 2) No former editor would be willing to participate if any part of the archives were removed for fear of legal retribution. 3) A few of the editors I spoke to expressed an interest in trying to not only save the archives, but also relaunch the site.
Knowing this, I engaged a few lawyer friends who were familiar with the Hogan case. One of them suggested operating like a non-profit, wherein the model would be mission driven, unaffected by traditional profit motives. A good start, but where would the money come from? It had to be benevolent donors, either large or small. Not knowing that many deep-pocketed philanthropists, I and the small team of former editors I had been strategizing with decided that Kickstarter would be the most logical way to go about generating interest, and if we could raise some money there, perhaps the attention would attract more sizable benefactors as momentum built.
Satisfied with this approach, I set about having multiple lengthy conversations with former employees and editors that I knew and trusted. At this point, I had been in touch with the Gawker estate and was asked to sign a dense NDA that forbid me from sharing details widely, so I couldn’t have broad conversations with everyone who may have been interested, at least not before the project became public.
This has, admittedly, put off a number of former employees who were not looped in to these initial conversations, and for that I am truly sorry. My desire was never to be intentionally secretive about this or to exclude other former employees, but to instead make sure I had the right pieces in place to successfully launch this project without jeopardizing my own legal position or the employment of any of my co-conspirators.
Now that the project is live, however, I’d like to make a few things clear. Firstly, I intend to make this foundation as transparent and open as possible. This means hosting regular on the record meetings that are open to all former employees that wish to participate. Our first meeting will take place on Sunday afternoon, and if you’re interested in coming, please fill out this form here and I will send you the details.
Secondly, I’d like to clarify that I consider this volunteer work on my part, and I have no intention of leaving my current company to operate this foundation. As such, we’re going to need a lot of help from a lot of people if we want to see this thing happen. I’ve already spent countless nights and weekends and a couple thousand dollars out of pocket to get us to this point, but moving forward I’d like to get as many interested parties on board to help. There are a variety of technical, editorial, and financial challenges that need to be addressed, so the more dedicated people we can pull in, the better. If all goes according to plan, there will definitely be paid, full time administrative and editorial positions available down the line. If you’re interested in helping but can’t make the meeting on Sunday, you can email me at email@example.com and I’ll be sure to fill you in.
Finally, I’d like to remind everyone that a non-profit is not a for profit corporation. Our goal here is not to generate profits or IPO, it is to create a permanent, sustainable home for the Gawker archives and future independent journalism. I don’t need to wax poetic about the current state of media here, I’ll save that for a later post. But the short version is that the traditional advertising-driven model is fundamentally flawed, and we aspire to create a place where important work can be funded by the people who it most greatly benefits: The public.
I’ve been absolutely floored by the outpouring of support for this endeavor. When the idea to crowdfund a bid to buy Gawker.com first came to be, my primary concern was “what if nobody cares?” With over a 1,200 pledges and $70,000+ raised in less than a week, it’s clear that people really do care. So thanks.
Gawker was important to me for a variety of personal reasons…like many of you, I spent nearly 10 years refreshing the site and reading almost every article daily. But in the 7.5 years I worked there, I also met some of my best friends, learned how digital publishing works from one of the most fiercely independent publishers on earth, and threw dozens of parties that seemingly defined my 20s. It was a special site, sure, but it was also a special group of amazingly talented, insightful people doing important work. In many ways, those people shaped my worldview more so than anything I had ever done before.