The idea is not to replicate the past, says new owner but what form the rebirth of the site will take remains to be seen
Bryan Goldberg, the CEO of Bustle Digital Group announced the impending return of Gawker.com in a memo sent to his staff on Tuesday. It had been unclear what Goldberg, who acquired the website for $1.35m at auction in July, had planned for the sites assets.
The tone-setting, widely influential site, which was often reviled particularly by those who found themselves in its crosshairs, as Goldberg himself often did, had been all but resigned to dead by its many ardent fans and its stable of talented alumni in the years since it was sued into bankruptcy by tech billionaire Peter Thiel and the wrestler Hulk Hogan. The brands other suite of sites Deadspin, Jezebel, and others were spun off into Gizmodo Media Group when they were acquired by Univision for $135m in 2016.
I was content, at last, with Gawker being dead, said Alex Pareene, who worked for Gawker from 2005 until it closed down as the last editor in chief.
Goldberg also announced that Amanda Hale, recently the chief revenue officer of The Outline, a post-Gawker-style site that fired a number of staffers last week, would assume the role of publisher.
Goldberg said the idea was not to replicate the past.
We wont recreate Gawker exactly as it was, but we will build upon Gawkers legacy and triumphs and learn from its missteps, he wrote.
What form that will take remains to be seen, as the site will likely launch in the second half of 2019, but among former staffers and contributors, there doesnt seem to be an abundance of optimism.
Of the dozen plus asked for comment, from longstanding editors to current writers at Gizmodo Media Group sites, many declined to go on the record, a surprising reticence from the typically outspoken Gawker house style. For some, it was out of a reluctance to comment on what has become such a thorny legal morass. Or, to put it in more typically Gawker fashion: Its a hornets nest into which I do not wish to stick my dick, as one said.
Looking around the media landscape of 2018, I believe the world needs a website like the old Gawker, Gabriel Snyder, editor in chief from 2008-2010 said. But I dont know the world needs another website called Gawker.
Others, like longtime editor, Choire Sicha, now at the New York Times, replied more succinctly, albeit characteristically, to the idea of Zombie Gawker. Haha, omg, he wrote in a direct message. He declined to elaborate further. John Cook, the former executive editor of Gawker Media Group was similarly blunt. Bring back Richard Lawson, he offered, in reference to the longtime Gawker writer, now at Vanity Fair. Lawson declined to comment on that employment proposal.
Others expressed hope that the new site would take a lesson from recent efforts among staffs at websites around the media landscape, like those at Gizmodo Media Group did in 2016, and unionize.
All of Bryan Goldbergs employees should unionize, Hamilton Nolan, a veteran writer at Gawker, and now at Splinter News, offered by way of advice.
Brendon OConnor, and editor and staff writer toward the end of Gawkers run echoed that sentiment.
The best thing the staff of New Gawker can do to honor the legacy of Old Gawker would be to form a union and demand complete editorial independence as soon as possible. Without that, the site will remain a shell of its former self; with it, something new and good may actually emerge.
To that he added, on the idea of the site being reborn: Its stupid and I hate it.
By and large, that was the prevailing takeaway.
I have a hard time imagining a scenario where this is not terrible, but I hope Im wrong, Ashley Feinberg, a former Gawker senior writer said.
Honestly, at this point, Id rather the site just stay up as a static archive and nothing else. Relaunches like this are always disappointing and a little depressing. Especially when the person doing it is a guy like [Goldberg] she wrote in a message, linking to an old Gawker piece titled Who Gave This Asshole $6.5 Million to Launch a Bro-Tastic Lady Site? about the launch of Bustle.
Goldberg is not a popular figure among current or former staffers, something Anna Merlan, a senior reporter at the Special Projects Desk, explained.
I suppose if they re-hired former staffers and former editors, and Bryan Goldberg sat very still, doing and saying absolutely nothing, perhaps it could look something like the old Gawker. I think thats very unlikely. I wish someone would ask Bryan what his actual vision for the site is, as well as whether he intends to take down old posts, including ones making fun of him.
That scenario seems unlikely.
A tidy end to its story seemed better than many possible alternatives, said Pareene. But I wish the new publishers the best. If they hire the right people, it could be good again, for a year or two, until it makes someone mad again. If it lasts longer than that, Im not sure they hired the right people.
This article was amended on 12 September 2018 to correct Anna Merlans job title.