Former employees of the gossip blog Gawker, which was shut down in 2016, are attempting to raise enough cash to purchase the rights to the website and relaunch it.
Employees of the now-defunct Gawker website are attempting to raise $500,000 via Kickstarter to purchase the rights to the clickbait gossip blog and relaunch it. Gawker shut down in August 2016, following a lengthy legal battle with former WWE superstar Hulk Hogan. Gawker Media was ordered to pay over $140 million to Hogan for publishing the former wrestler’s sex tape. It was later revealed that tech billionaire Peter Thiel funded Hogan’s lawsuit as a method of retaliation against the website which outed him as gay years earlier, Thiel stated that shutting Gawker down was “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.”
“Gawker isn’t gone, it’s up for auction. The person who drove the site into bankruptcy wants to buy it,” states the new Gawker Kickstarter page, likely referring to Peter Thiel’s interest in purchasing the site, We’re a group of former Gawker Media employees across editorial, tech, and business, and we want to put in our own bid to buy it back. We believe the site can thrive in an entirely membership funded model.”
The former employees outlined their main aims in purchasing the rights to the website,
- Preserve the Gawker.com archives and make them accessible.
- Relaunch the site under the stewardship of former editors, new writers, and an entirely membership-funded model.
The former employees paint the website as an investigative journalism giant, breaking stories other websites were too afraid to touch, “Gawker was willing to chase stories that other outlets considered too risky or salacious. But the truth is often inconvenient, and Gawker’s work isn’t done. We want to dig deeper. By setting ourselves up as an ownerless, advertiser-less, non-profit media organization, the editorial team will be able to do what they do best.”
However, this perception is quite at odds with what the site actually did and how it’s founder even described it. Gawker founder Nick Denton frequently described himself as a “pornographer,” a tongue-in-cheek joke that sadly had quite a basis in reality. In 2010, AJ Daulerio, Gawker’s editor at the time, refused to remove a video published by Gawker of a girl possibly being raped in the bathroom stall of a sports bar. The girl in the video emailed Daulerio directly, begging for the video to be removed but Daulerio refused, Gawker’s own complaint department commented on the girl’s request, writing “Blah, blah, blah.”
Daulerio’s reaction isn’t surprising given that he hasn’t always been a paragon of moral virtue, this is the same man who at trial said that he would “draw the line” at publishing the sex tape of a 4-year old child, everything else was seemingly fair game.
The website also saw fit to publish an article outing Condé Nast CFO David Geithner as gay. The article included supposedly authentic sexual text messages between Geithner and a gay porn star. Gawker provided no reasoning for the attempted outing of Geithner, who is married with children, yet it can be noted that Geithner was the CFO of one of Gawker’s main commercial opponents.
Gawker’s founder Nick Denton regularly joked about the website’s lack of moral compass saying, “Is there Gawker ethics? I mean, I guess there’s Gawker ethics. It’s a dangerous thing to talk about.” Gawker has never held themselves to a high journalistic standard by Denton’s own admission, the blog regularly published rumors and hearsay without a second thought, “With a blog you can throw the rumor out there and ask for help. You can say: “We don’t know if this is true or not,” said Denton in an interview.
It seems that neither Daulerio or Denton are involved with the new Kickstarter campaign to revive the suit, but the Kickstarter page does state that, “Gawker.com’s Founding Editor Elizabeth Spiers is advising and will be joining the board of directors.” The Kickstarter page also outlines the group’s plans if they don’t raise enough money stating, “If we don’t raise enough money to buy the site, we will preserve the archive and launch a new publication under a different name. We’re bringing this back whether we have the Gawker URL or not.”
The Kickstarter campaign has currently raised $28,829 from 458 backers and still has 28 days left.