Its a hard story for journalists to tell. Journalists are, despite their political reputation, fundamentally conservative. The only way to keep explaining whats happening in the world, day after day, is to rely on some basic frames. Cause and effect have to unfold within stable institutions, according to accepted rules. A story that falls outside the everyday frames— The mayor is a crackhead who leaves a trail of violence where he goes, say, or This beloved entertainer is accused of being a serial rapist —requires a radical shift of perspective. Possibly the best and truest part of the movie spotlight was how much of the boston Globe s investigation into the catholic Churchs secret sexual abuse came out of the Globe s own morgue. The paper had already written the story, piece by piece.
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Berry: I just ask on behalf short of the dca to provide them the courtesy that we are going to be moving for a stay for them and would like time for the judges there to be able to rule on a request for a stay. I have denied the request. At this point we had moved past anything having to do with what Gawker did or what it was. We were past the spectacle of the hogan trial, a trial supposedly about an act of publication, in which the judge had refused to allow the published material to be considered in open court. Gawker was simply a civil defendant, facing a judgment too large to pay, after a plaintiff had structured the case so that insurance would not help cover the damages. The company was asking only to survive long enough this to put the judgment before a higher court, on appeal. This is, supposedly, how the system works. Instead, there would be no chance to appeal before the company was destroyed. Here was money talking, and nothing but money. The only law was the judge.
It is from a june 10 hearing in the pinellas plan county circuit court, in which Judge pamela campbell, speaking to gawkers lawyer Michael Berry, ordered Hogan be granted immediate access to the companys assets: the court: Im signing the order today. Well, then what Id like to do, your Honor, is request a temporary stay to allow us to seek review of that order from the district court of Appeal. We would ask for a temporary stay for a week so that we can file a motion with the dca by monday morning — by monday, and provide plaintiff time to respond. We will ask for this order to be stayed from — for seven days from the entry. The court: That will be denied. Berry: Can we ask for until 5:00. Berry: to the end of the day today? The court: I mean, really, were way beyond all that.
We had reckoned deeply with our regrets and our contradictions, and nothing about them began to add up to 140 million. Still, the, times reporter asked, what were my own regrets? I told him, finally, that I had worked at Gawker Media for five years, and that all I could say was that nothing in that time was as shameful to me as a story the salon times had put on its front page the month before. I would have been ashamed, i said, if we had run that. For any number of reasons, that" didnt make it into the story. The story was, by its own lights, a melancholy and nuanced one, a portrait of the end of an era. It surveyed the history of the company and the achievements of the people whove left it; it concluded with a glimpse of tears in Nick dentons eyes. Again, none of that is why m is shutting down tomorrow. Here is the transcript that explains exactly why it is shutting down.
At the party this month marking the end of Nick dentons ownership of Gawker—and, though we did not quite know it then, the end of m—a reporter for the. Times, the one who would file the story calling our work mean and inconsequential, dug into. Why, he wanted to know, did it seem that no one at Gawker was willing to admit any fault? This was a stupid question, and I tried to tell him so as nicely as I could. The fact of Thiels campaign against Gawker made the question stupid on two different levels. One of those levels was simply practical: What the hogan trial had demonstrated, and what the other Thiel-backed lawsuits were affirming, was that Gawkers culture of open dispute and self-criticism had become too dangerous. Hostile lawyers were being paid to look for any negative remark any of us might make, to read it into the record against. But it was also stupid in its broad themes. The reason why nobody at Gawker was counting up our sins as our doom descended was that we had realized, belatedly, that the sins and the doom were unconnected.
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When it gets to the worlds understanding of what we were, though, it slides into the shadows. The simple worlds understanding was inescapably shaped by the fact that we had a 100 million lawsuit closing in. The daily dot, in a roundup of Gawkers various misdeeds, wrote: Unlike the most recent case of Gawkers editorial staff ignoring their better judgement, many of these incidents surrounding the site rest on the belief that celebrities can hold no reasonable expectation of privacy—an argument. The 100 million lawsuit is the most serious challenge faced by gawker yet and, as Denton explained, might have helped cement his decision to remove the story. Elsewhere, the same for piece argued: Large chunks of Internet culture need to be cleansed of their filthier, less morally sound components if they can hope to survive at all.
Gawker is no different. Somehow, it had become the case that the world was discussing whether a perennially profitable and growing publication could hope to survive at all. In one span of a little more than a year, not very long ago, the. New York times mistakenly accepted (and cheered for) a failed Venezuelan coup, printed falsehoods that helped carry the case for invading Iraq, and saw its top editors resign after a humiliating plagiarism scandal. No one suggested the paper had signed its own death warrant. That the, new York times has the right to exist, to rise above its failings, is taken for granted. No one would mistake the.
The business side began to believe the editorial side was heedlessly dragging the company down; the editorial side began to believe the business side was fearfully prepared to undermine its integrity. Nick denton himself, having taunted and titillated other journalists for years with the message that Gawker would do what they wouldnt, found that message turned back on him. He internalized what his critics and his legal bills were telling him—that the site was out of control, that it had grown too reckless and irresponsible for the power it had grown to wield. In a recurring and nigh comical routine, he took to asking his editors and writers over and over again, in slightly different ways for slightly different occasions, to name the best stories theyd done, to remind him over and over of what the mission was. Former Gawker editor Max read wrote an account of this era for. New York magazine, where he now works.
It was read and executive editor Tommy Craggs who resigned from Gawker in the summer of last year, after the strain between the editorial and business departments—and between the two sides of Dentons mind—broke into an open rupture over the publication of a post about. Reads assessment of that episode is clear-eyed and self-critical, and is probably as good a rendition of the story of that disastrous post as can be written. It does not, however, explain Gawkers demise. Having worked closely with Craggs and read, and having lived through the whole thing firsthand, i found reads history of the era unsettling: It is a thoughtful, deeply considered, and on certain levels deadly accurate portrait, but it is still inescapably a portrait drawn. Read wrote: we hadnt exposed any great hypocrisy; instead, wed taken a bit of gossip and brought the full bludgeoning of moral urgency and ideological commitments to bear. Whatever wed hoped to accomplish with that story, we instead reaffirmed the worlds understanding of what we were: needlessly cruel. Within a week of publication, nick was promising in interviews a 20 percent nicer version of Gawker. Thats not false, on its own terms.
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Gawker found writing itself attracting legal threats and lawsuits at an unprecedented rate. Among those was Hulk hogans complaint against Gawker for having written about a sex video he appeared in, and for publishing brief excerpts of that video. This was the kind of case that, in the normal course of things, would have gone away. Hogans first two attempts to pursue it, in federal court, went nowhere, with judges ruling that the publication was newsworthy and protected. Yet the case kept moving. Suddenly the company had exhausted the limits of its insurance and was bleeding money on legal fees. The business model on which it had thrived—writing things that people were interested in reading, and selling ads to reach those readers—was foundering due to a whole new class of expenses. The natural conclusion, even for people on the inside, was that the company must have taken too many risks. The willingness to publish things too ugly for other outlets to touch—an account of seeing video of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack, domestic-violence accusations against Bill oreilly—had gone over to destructive irresponsibility, and we were being punished for.
In Gawkers wildest, most buccaneering years, it never came close line to paying a million dollars for crossing a line. What Thiels covert campaign against Gawker did was to invisibly change the terms of the risk calculation. The change begins with the post about Thiels sexual identity in a homophobic investor culture, the post Thiel now cites as the inspiration for his decision to destroy gawker. It was solidly protected by media law and the first Amendment, as were the other posts that, as Thiel wrote, attacked and mocked people—specifically, his cohort of rising plutocrats in Silicon Valley. Hurting rich peoples feelings is, in principle, not a punishable offense. So rather than fighting the material that he really objected to, thiel went looking for pretexts. Over time, he came up with them.
manners and sometimes bad judgment. Occasionally, it published things that it would regret—just as, for instance, the. New York times has published things that it regrets. But every publication gives itself room to make mistakes, and is prepared to absorb the damage when it does make a mistake. New York post was so eager for a scoop on the boston Marathon bombing that it put a photo of two innocent men on its front page, after law enforcement had already declared that they were not suspects. Post was denounced, as it deserved to be, for callously crossing the line, and it ended up settling a defamation lawsuit. Lawsuits and settlements happen to everyone, and everyone carries insurance to handle them.
Times own reporters in the news pages. Gawkers take-no-prisoners approach en to its detriment, the business section reported. Gawker was, the Styles section wrote, a place where too many of the articles published were not write only mean but inconsequential. The message is that Gawker had this coming, that the site was—to some degree, depending on how sympathetic the writer is trying to pose as being—responsible for its own downfall. By now it is conventional wisdom. That conventional wisdom is false. M is out of business because one wealthy person maliciously set out to destroy it, spending millions of dollars in secret, and succeeded. That is the only reason.
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Image by jim cooke, a lie with a billion dollars behind it is stronger than the truth. Peter Thiel has shut down. This is the final act in what Thiel wished to present, and succeeded in presenting, as a simple and ancient morality play, a story of hubris meeting its punishment. The premise behind that morality play database was, as Thiel wrote in space given him by the. New York times last week, that cruelty and recklessness were intrinsic parts of Gawkers business model. The 140 million judgment that his lawyers secured for Hulk hogan against Gawker Media, sending the company into a bankruptcy from which its flagship site would not emerge, was a matter of proving that there are consequences for violating privacy. The, times didnt really need to give thiel the space in the opinion section to tell his story of the wages of recklessness. You could get it directly from the.