Gawker Lays Off Staff as Site Pivots to Politics

Gawker LogoGawker, a site that once focused on New York media and has more recently focused on pageviews, is turning into a politics site, The New York Times reported this afternoon.

“Is there any doubt that the 2016 US presidential election campaign, a contest between reality-defying fabulists and the last representatives of two exhausted political dynasties, will provide rich new opportunities for sensation and satire?” Gawker owner Nick Denton wrote in a memo this afternoon. “I can appreciate the wonky contrarianism of Ezra Klein’s Vox.com and high-metabolism micronews from Ben Smith’s Buzzfeed Politics. But, more than any other facet of the American system, the politico-media blob begs puncturing by some sharp Gawker wit and probing by Gawker’s inquisitive journalists.”

Former Racket Teen Alex Pareene, now back at Gawker as editor in chief, will lead the charge to develop a blog that punctures the “politico-media blob.”

“[Newly named editor in chief Alex] Pareene’s Gawker will focus intensely on politics, broadly considered, and the 2016 campaign,” executive editor John Cook wrote in a memo, which was first obtained by The Awl this afternoon. “Never before has a political season promised to be so ripe for the kind of punishing satire and absurdist wit that Alex has perfected over his career—a spirit I saw in action up close when he was a Gawker blogger back in 2009, and also when he was a manager and editorial leader at First Look.”

As part of this reinvention, staffers at Gawker, as well as at other Gawker Media sites like Jezebel, are getting laid off.

“The shift in focus will necessarily mean that certain kinds of stories that Gawker has trafficked in in the past will go by the wayside, and we can’t reshape the site’s focus without shifting personnel,” Mr. Cook wrote. “Unfortunately, Jay Hathaway, Jason Parham, Kelly Conaboy, and Taylor Berman, all of whom have been valuable assets in previous iterations of Gawker, will be leaving.”

According to The Awl, many of the laid off staffers found out when Slack, their chat service, was disabled.

Of course, it’s been an even more tumultuous year than usual for Gawker. Last summer, shortly after announcing that the company would form a union, Mr. Denton threw a party to celebrate not having to spend the summer in Florida after the Hulk Hogan lawsuit was postponed. During the party, a shaky post outing a media executive for allegedly almost hiring a male escort was published. The post was removed after an outcry, some editors resigned in protest, other editors were gently encouraged to follow their principles and leave the company with a buyout.

In the wake of that incident, Mr. Denton pledged that the site would be 20 percent nicer. (Which makes sense for a politics-focused site, we guess).

For a while, we were given a reprieve from reading about (and, in some cases, writing about Gawker). Until yesterday, that is, when a few editors shifted around and former staffer Dayna Evans published a post on Medium about how Gawker wasn’t super great for female employees.

Oh, and Gawker platform Kinja is officially giving up the fight to become Medium.

“On the technology front, we will no longer seek to develop Kinja as an open blogging platform, given the competition that exists from technology companies devoted entirely to that challenge,” Mr. Denton announced in his memo. “Work will continue, with full focus on improving the writer and reader experience on the seven media brands along with providing relevant advertising and story recommendations.”

Well, at least there will finally be a place on the Internet to read about politics during the election season.

Gawker Lays Off Staff as Site Pivots to Politics