There’s almost no publication I’d like to see go out of business, apart from anything resembling Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic trash of a bygone era. Even when it’s seemingly hopeless that today’s dubious properties will improve, I still hope. The worst of them present some useful news and contribute to the dialogue to a degree.
Gawker is far from hopeless or the worst. It has presented lots of useful information and opinions along with some glaringly reckless stupidity. Hopefully, the Peter Thiel-backed Hulk Hogan lawsuit won’t a be a fatal error for it and its many sister sites. Of course, it won’t really matter in the long run if no lessons have been absorbed on the inside of the independent institution.
In a Time Q&A conducted by Belinda Luscombe, Gawker founder Nick Denton speaks candidly about his trial and finances. Denton makes two comments I disagree with:
1) He says he admires Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes because they put out “good, true, provocative stories.” For the most part, the two men have enriched themselves by delivering distortions of the truth under the guise of news.
2) On Thiel stealthily funding the Hogan lawsuit, Denton says, “I doubt that any billionaire will be pursuing precisely this template again, having seen how strong the backlash is.” If no other billionaires fund a similar suit, I doubt it will be because of any backlash. If someone is that petty and that rich, popular opinion probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. If another such case fails to materialize, it would be because there aren’t too many people with Thiel’s wherewithal that also have his many personality quirks.
In one exchange, the embattled publisher reveals his thoughts on the near-term reality of the media business. God help us if Facebook, a non-news company, is the only general-news brand in a few years. The excerpt:
What will the media landscape look like five years down the road?
First of all, I think that properties like Gizmodo and Lifehacker and Deadspin and Jezebel have a much better chance of prospering in this new world than general news brands, news and media brands. Facebook will be the only general news brand, and maybe another social network or two. The more specialized, more focused publications will be the ones that prosper. I think that’s one thing that’s going to happen. And my personal interest is to find a way online to allow writers and readers and subjects and sources to debate and develop a story together. Not necessarily through conflict and trollery, but through civil disagreements online which further everybody’s understanding of an issue.•