Gawker.com, the website that set the bar — high and low — for gossip in the Internet age, is trading snark for satire and salacious innuendo for political intelligence.
Just a few months after a nasty and very public internal dispute over a story led to a management shakeup, the game-changing gossip site revealed today that it’s taking a stake in the business of covering politics.
The change, accompanied by staff layoffs and the shutting down of several sites including Hollywood gossip retailer Defamer, will put Gawker Media in direct competition with such established digital destinations as Politico and Slate. It will compete for coverage, influence and advertising dollars in news and commentary about the presidential race, according to a memo to the staff from Gawker Media founder Nick Denton. The site will “ride the circus of the 2016 campaign cycle,” he said, while continuing to cover business, media and culture as part of its new mandate.
A major change seemed inevitable in the wake of the upheaval in July, when the site ran an item about an unidentified male media executive’s hiring of a male prositute. While many staff members believed the item was fair game, Denton stepped in, removed the item and published a commentary attacking the story and declaring that, moving forward, Gawker would become “nicer.” Two of his top lieutenants, Gawker Media executive editor Tommy Craggs and Gawker.com editor Max Read, quit in response.
John Cook, a highly regarded investigative reporter and Gawker columnist who replaced Craggs, told the staff in his own memo that the site will take a Daily Show “approach to covering the ever-intensifying culture wars, documenting, satirizing and reporting on the ways that political disputes are refracted in every aspect of our popular culture.”
Gossip won’t entirely disappear from the Gawker Media fold, which includes Jezebel, Gizmodo, Lifehacker and Deadspin. But Valleywag, which covers Silicon Valley, and sci-fi site io9 are among the smaller sites that will be shut down in the changeover in addition to Defamer.