Deadliest Klatsch: Nick Denton Gives Gawker’s Drive-By Peanut Gallery a Promotion

Journalists, commenters ... what’s the diff?

GAWKER INSIDERS LIKE to cast the new commenting system as merely the latest obsession of their mercurial and adaptive boss. Remember 2010, when Mr. Denton declared text an inferior medium and said the future of Gawker was video? Or the year after that, when Gawker—having won the scalp of “Craigslist Congressman” Chris Lee—looked like the future of journalism? He changed the site’s tagline to “Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news,” but it has yet to repeat that sort of reporting coup.

Until now, Mr. Denton’s pivoting had little real impact on his employees. No matter what he declared in his widely read memos, young, ambitious writers came to work for Gawker Media to get a little bit famous and left, mostly unscathed, for jobs at more established outlets. But in Kinja, Gawker Media writers will be central to Mr. Denton’s experiment in public, collaborative, do-it-live journalism.

Here’s how it works: Don’t worry about nailing a story down, post what you have. “The work can be the product of a discussion,” Mr. Denton said, “a back-and-forth between writers, editors, sources, subjects and readers.”

He calls it “iterative reporting,” and he believes it reproduces conversational thought and gossip as faithfully as possible, bypassing the publicists and other gatekeepers who “chew the story over so much that all the flavor is removed.”

“I want the writing to be fun again,” said Mr. Denton, who has long threatened to make his writers’ chat rooms public.

Once the comments become a “safe space” for writers, as he put it—and not the battlefield of psychological warfare Jezebel writers are sometimes advised to avoid—the tipsters and insiders will stop depending on the privacy of the email tip box.

“Everybody will do everything in public,” he said. “Just give it time.”

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did recently make an appearance in the discussion of Adrian Chen’s story about a cancer charity hoax, though he might have been laughed out of the old Gawker comments for confusing “its” and “it’s.”

And as for dream commenter Kurt Andersen, he is almost positive he never commented on Gawker. “Internet commenting, on Gawker or otherwise, is an activity I think not even Nick Denton’s genius can persuade me to take up,” he told The Observer. But he will appear in a Jezebel discussion next month, to plug his new novel, True Believers, in a Q&A with readers.

Kinja proved a useful medium for such Reddit-style Q&As when Chris Crocker, the  “Leave Britney Alone” video artist, stopped by Gawker last week to promote his forthcoming HBO documentary, Me @ the Zoo. Mr. Crocker—one of the most despised people on the Internet, Mr. Denton told us—reported back that his Kinja web chat was “the most pleasant hour in a day of media interviews.”

“That was a gratifying moment,” Mr. Denton said.