Updated | How do you measure Gawker's legacy?
Start with its enemies. Gawker made a lot of them: billionaires, media personalities, world-famous wrestlers, right-wing ideologues, random mini-celebrities. Despite the scoops it landed and the formidable media talent it nurtured, there is no better measure of Gawker's impact than the vast number of famous or quasi-famous people it pissed off over its 13-year career.
The blog officially ceased operations this week, after losing a high-profile legal battle against Hulk Hogan. So we reached out to several dozen notable Gawker targets over the years and asked for their thoughts about its demise. Some of these people are famous. Many of them are not. Some of them are intimately involved with Manhattan media, others not at all. Some of them are gleefully dancing on Gawker's grave, while others shared more nuanced reactions or concerns about press freedom. The one thing all of these individuals have in common is that they have been the subject of unflattering Gawker coverage, whether deserved or not.
These responses were all provided to Newsweek via email or phone interviews, except for the tweets, obviously, which were tweeted on Twitter.
Founder of Mediabistro.com, venture investor
(Sample headline: "Laurel Touby's Inability to Use the Internet Creates Mayhem")
How do you feel about Gawker shutting down?
Obviously, there's that high school petty side of me that wants to cheer in some ways. But on the other hand, I feel sorry for Nick [Denton] because I know he never meant to be the bully that he ended up becoming to so many people. I don't think in his heart he really wanted to be. I feel sorry for him in some ways.
Do you believe they deserved this extreme verdict?
I'm not a legal expert by any means. So I don't know if legally it deserved that. It seemed out of hand. Like, really, really extreme. It was almost like watching a movie about a website. I think the punishment went too far, possibly. On the other hand, a part of me feels like, OK, karma is a bitch. Maybe there is karma in the world.
Do you think it's a loss in any way?
There are many, many outlets. In that sense, the world is not losing anything. Gawker had some news that it broke. It did some good in the world. I would say that there are many, many other sites now that are going to continue to carry the torch of journalism. Gawker was not just a journalistic enterprise. It was more than that. It was journalism plus hostility. It was expressing this primal hostility.
What's the worst thing Gawker wrote about you?
The things it wrote about me were, in hindsight, not terrible. It was just a bully. It was like a schoolyard bully. It was the comments in the threads. The horrible comments that it enabled people to make. It channeled people's hostilities towards me. It was almost like a laser gun. And the first shot it made on me was not the harmful shot. It was the energy that it permitted to focus on me after that first wound. That was painful.
(Sample headline: "Dane Cook's NBC Sitcom Was So Bad the Network Refuses to Air Any of the Episodes It Filmed")
Reality TV star, blogger, daughter of Sarah Palin
(Sample headline: "Bristol Palin Makes Great Argument for Abortion in Baby Announcement")
"It just goes to show that God will handle people in his own way for doing the work of the devil and intentionally hurting people with lies."
Conservative blogger, radio host
(Sample headline: "Right-Wing Gun Idolator Erick Erickson Flies Into a Rage, Shoots Up a Piece of Paper")
"They’ve dinged me a couple of times when I deserved it, but they've also made scandal where there was none, including dragging my 70-plus-year-old mother into a story as a way to attack me and grilling her on a 28-year-old minor event she didn’t remember. I think Gawker did for some what Trump does for some. Both let their friends and supporters be comfortable in being terrible people."
Magazine editor, formerly of The Daily Beast
(Sample headline: "Tina Brown Interviews Tina Brown, Is Impressed")
.@Gawker trashed me more times than I can count but to be killed off by a thin skinned tech tyrant is appalling.— Tina Brown (@TinaBrownLM) August 18, 2016
Journalist, commentator, TV personality
(Sample headline: "Julia Allison Leads New York's Women Into Cold, Sexless Future")
"1. I'm absolutely thrilled.
2. Peter Thiel is my hero. (Except for the Trump endorsement.)
3. Karma is real.
4. Spreading lies, gossip and malicious ad-hominem attacks on people and calling it "reporting" = Bullshit. Good riddance!"
Blogger, best-selling author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
(Sample headline: "The Tucker Max Asshole Allegation Roundup")
What are your thoughts on Gawker's demise?
I think it's great and America owes a debt of gratitude to Peter Thiel. Gawker deserved everything they got.
Do you think Gawker had any redeeming qualities? Anything worth mourning?
Did you weep when your schoolyard bully got beat down by a much bigger kid? The only difference here is that Gawker tried to convince people they weren't a bully.
Journalist, author, staff writer for The New Yorker
(Sample headline: "Malcolm Gladwell Reveals Self as Awful, for Once and for All")
If @gawker is so important to democracy why don't they start it up again? It's not like they have to spend 300 million on printing presses.— Malcolm Gladwell (@Gladwell) August 23, 2016
Founder and creator of the Girls Gone Wild franchise
(Sample headline: "Joe Francis: Gawker's Douche of the Decade")
"I'm extremely happy to see them go. They completely butchered journalism. They made people not trust the media. They made people hate reporters.... They called my daughters 'genetically modified' in their Jezebel [Gawker's sister blog]. Number one, genetic modification is illegal. There are no genetically modified humans that I know of. But to attack innocent little babies? It's just horrible. They're horrible people."
Talk radio host, best known for The Opie and Anthony Show
(Sample headline: "Anthony Cumia Has a Long History of Public Awfulness")
How do you feel about Gawker going under?
I'm a pretty strong proponent of the First Amendment. But man, they just went too far with getting people in trouble. Whatever it was, they would rat you out to whatever interest group there was out there. All of a sudden, it became a news story. And you were a piece of shit. It all starts at Gawker and spreads out like a virus.... They're little rats. They were a little rat site to stir up people's emotions, blow a story out of proportion and, if all went as they hoped it would, get somebody in trouble.
What do you think is the worst thing they wrote about you?
Of course, the catchphrase of the past five years is "racist." You say something that even involves race and you're a racist. I was assaulted in Times Square a couple years ago by an African-American woman who was very nasty. She socked me in the head a few times. I walked away from it. When I got back to my apartment, I tweeted how angry I was. Apparently, Gawker saw that as racist. My bosses over at SiriusXM saw Gawker's take on it and the other vultures that picked up on what Gawker said, and they fired me. I lost my job of 10 years because of Gawker.... They got what they deserved. It was one of those good feelings when I heard about it. They tried to destroy a lot of people's lives and they turned mine completely upside down. Thank God I'm able to land on my feet with what I have right now.
[Note: Cumia's 2014 Twitter rant contained numerous references to "violent savages" and claims like "There's a deep seeded problem with violence in the black community." It's not such a great leap to call it racist.]
Entrepreneur, board partner of Andreessen Horowitz
(Sample headline: "The Silicon Valley Secessionist Clarifies His Batshit Insane Plan")
Gawker was cyberbullying for profit. Every day they scoured the web for someone to violate or bankrupt. Now they are bankrupt. No tears.— Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis) June 10, 2016
New Peter Thiel book on Gawker coming out. Working title? FROM ONE TO ZERO. https://t.co/HTazFHlFj2— Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis) June 10, 2016
Conservative blogger and troll who attempted to sue Gawker for defamation
(Sample headline: "Which of These Disgusting Chuck Johnson Rumors Are True")
"I'm ecstatic. For years, Gawker made up things about me, and now they are suffering. I love every minute of it! Denton likes to pretend he's talking truth to power, but he's a liar and a hypocrite and probably a criminal.
"Funny you should email. I'm actually in Hungary right now investigating Nick Denton's tax cheating."
Former journalist and creator of The Wire
(Sample headline: "David Simon: Dead-Wrong Dinosaur")
To all those w/ jeremiads about Gawker case. This time the billionaire asshole is correct. And news org. is ethically lost and useless. 1/2— David Simon (@AoDespair) May 28, 2016
Some of Gawker was fine work; some of it beyond the pale. There is enough lost of one for some regret; too much of the other for martyrdom.— David Simon (@AoDespair) August 19, 2016
Blogger, journalist, TV personality, former lawyer
(Sample headline: "Why Is Mediaite's Rachel Sklar Obsessed With Vaginas?")
"You reached out to me as someone who had been a target of Gawker. [I'm] more like a little gnat they would occasionally flick before they moved on to much more important people. Who cares? Have a thick skin. Because Gawker was mean to me, I should want them to have been sued out of existence? No! I don't want that. I'm not glad they're gone in that way. I like to think that I have a little thicker skin than Peter Thiel, who spent millions of dollars in order to realize his dream of vengeance.
"I came up in digital media in the Gawker sphere. Gawker provided the infrastructure for the digital sphere in New York and for digital media going from outlier to mainstream. Everybody owes a debt to Gawker for that one. Bar none. I think it's a shame. It's a classic journalistic maxim: Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. That basically was Gawker's mandate. There's no publication that I agree with everything they did. As a media critic, The New York Times was a huge target [of mine]. But man, I'm glad we have the Times. And I kind of felt the same way about Gawker. They really did provide an essential service. If along with that essential service came posts which were harder to defend, on balance, I would still rather have Gawker around and doing what it did best.
"To be brutally honest, Gawker was probably much better for me for having covered me than for the times when they slagged me. Gawker created a breed of micro-celebrities. When it started, Gawker was reporting on the media industry. Gawker saw us—in the way the mainstream media didn't see us. Because we were right in front of them. We were partying with them. We were part of that scene. It would be churlish of me to not acknowledge the benefits I got from being photographed and publicized in Gawker's party roundups. It would be churlish to only think back on the stuff I disagreed with. And of course there was a lot. Nobody has a thinner skin than journalists. We all want to be recognized for the brilliant, unique snowflakes we all are.
"This is definitely not a blanket endorsement of everything Gawker ever did. That would be ridiculous. But it is an endorsement for Gawker existing."
RICH VENTURE CAPITALIST WHO INSISTED ON REMAINING ANONYMOUS
"I will say that outside of journalistic circles there are no tears being shed for Nick Denton. He is an awful person who tried to profit off of the destruction of people's personal lives. Thankfully, his unchecked, mean, despotic way of doing business caught up with him. I am no fan of Peter Thiel. But I am glad that someone finally had the stones to take Denton on and hold him accountable. Do I worry about the ultrarich abusing their wealth and power? Yes. But in this particular case, I feel justice was done."
Novelist, writer, Jeopardy! champion
(Sample headline: "Neal Pollack, Stop Writing About Your Son Right This Instant")
It just crushes me that after next week this won't be on the Internet. Goodbye, Gawker, thanks for ruining my life! https://t.co/2KDeqvWT85— Neal Pollack (@nealpollack) August 18, 2016
Blogger, journalism professor
(Sample headline: "Journalism Professor Will Go to War for Free Speech, as Long as It Doesn't Mock Him")
"I was not viciously attacked. I got snarky comments a couple times. Doesn't make me happy, but it wasn't life-changing. I'm sorry that it's gone, sorry that it's gone the way it's gone. At the same time, I think that all along it could've been something else. Gawker could have been more. This is not just true of Gawker—it's true of cable news and social media. At some point, we have to ask why we're there. It's not just to get nasty. It's not even just to bring the powerful down, unless the powerful are truly doing something wrong. What are we accomplishing? There was a lot of talent at Gawker, and I just think it could have been put to better use."
(Sample headline: "Racism Doesn't Exist in Tech Because White Tech Blog Millionaire Jason Calacanis Has Never Seen It")
2. Gawker's approach to journalism was often abhorrent, but freedom of press is vital -- so it's a mess of a situation with no real winners— jason (@Jason) August 2, 2016
Novelist, Esquire columnist
(Sample headline: "Just Shut Up and Do the Goddamn Housework Already, Dude")
"I think I pretty much have had my say about Gawker here. It's fucking horrible [that it's being shut down] is what it is."
Author, political commentator
(Sample headline: "Dinesh D'Souza Is Incarcerated With a 400-Pound Bully and Loving It")
Venture capitalist, co-founder of PayPal
(Sample headline: "Peter Thiel Is Totally Gay, People")
Peter Thiel was not available for comment, but we can reasonably assume he's happy to see Gawker drown, considering he paid thousands if not millions of dollars to help make it happen.
This post has been updated to include a response from Bristol Palin.