On Monday, Deadspin editor A.J. Daulerio unrolled a fairly epic foray into the world of stunt journalism: an attempt to re-create Major League pitcher Dock Ellis’ infamous no-hitter of June 12, 1970 against the San Diego Padres, pitched while tripping on LSD. He did so by taking LSD.
Mr. Daulerio used a video game and two doses (“hits”) of acid for his own attempts, which were wildly unsuccessful. Mr. Daulerio did, however, successfully eat some pizza, despite being skeptically eyed by the foodstuff in question.
As far as Deadspin is concerned, let alone stunt journalism, even for Gawker Media, this certainly represents a new extreme. While the dangers of small-time LSD use appear to be non-lethal (“may release latent psychosis or exacerbate depression“), long gone are the days when Gawker employees don’t have employer-subsidized health insurance plans (or health insurers to answer to). Next Monday, the company’s new VP of sales—Andrew Gorenstein—starts. Some advertising buyers could be wary of a publication that allows this kind of thing to happen! It’s certainly nothing like what Mr. Gorenstein would ever have to sell at Conde Nast, where he’s coming to Gawker from.
Did Gawker Media owner Nick Denton know about the post beforehand?
Mr. Daulerio responded via instant message: “I believe I told him,” he explained. “He had no idea about the backstory or the reason I was doing it (I don’t think) which is pretty refreshing, editorially speaking.”
And how did he get this cleared? “I checked with legal and volunteered to do the disclaimer just to let people know that it was a ‘stunt’ (for journalism!) because, you know, I don’t think it’s necessary to brazenly condone this type of behavior.”
“But,” he added, “it was important to me and for the site to couple it with some of the background research we did for it. At the very least so readers don’t think I orchestrated this whole thing just so I could drop acid on a Tuesday.”
Gawker Media publisher Nick Denton declined to comment when asked about his editors dropping acid.
Yet: This is not the first time Gawker Media has engaged in stunt journalism or discussed the imbibing of drugs in a candid, familiar manner; in fact, precedent for the latter started when current Observer editor Elizabeth Spiers interviewed an East Village yuppie on the quest for the perfect cocaine dealer (a torch then carried by the next editor, Choire Sicha, who interviewed a Manhattan mairjuana delivery dealer).
Gawker websites have often been a place where taboo topics (such as drug use) are given the illumination of first-hand experience (“Writing on drugs is my drug,” “Cocaine is cheaper than its ever been, and let us just tell you that we think that’s really great“), yet treated somewhere above the lowbrow regard of High Times or VICE.
The site was an early adopter of recreational Adderall usage and bemoaned the loss of their beloved drug dealing networks. They have delivered important verdicts in matters such as Xanax vs. Kolonopin and the question of whether or not everyone they know pops pills.
More recently, Adrian Chen wrote about a website where you can buy drugs with digital currency BitCoins, Silk Road (thus provoking an intense interest in BitCoins, obviously) while Deadspin writer Emma Carmichael was sent to the Cannabis Cup to turn in a full report on a candid excursion into what is essentially the World Series of Marijuana.
As for stunt journalism, it’s nothing new, either: Gizmodo writers have experimented with a sex toy and been permanently banned from CES for shutting off all the televisions. Slightly more highbrow ventures into stunt journalism have also occurred: investigative reporter John Cook once trailed Bill O’Reilly’s ambush journalist Jesse Waters for a week until ambushing Mr. Waters himself. Though, this is the first time any Gawker Media writers have admittedly “dropped” acid for work on the site.
As for attempting to expense the acid to the company, Mr. Daulerio confessed: “I didn’t even think of that!”
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