Gawker’s salacious media brand can barely be categorized as journalism. The company audaciously uses gossip as sources and brazenly goes after public figures in such a grotesque, belittling fashion that in no way can it classify itself as a respectable news source.
Outing someone as gay — without the person’s consent or even any real public interest in the matter — is not only irresponsible, it shows a lack of moral principle and journalist ethic that is unparalleled and unfathomable in today’s modern media landscape. Bottom line: Gawker does not abide by any higher standard, however, that doesn’t mean its fate is justified.
The lawsuit spearheaded by Hulk Hogan against the media conglomerate, which Peter Thiel secretly funded, has caused Gawker to file for bankruptcy and set itself up for auction. This turn of events sets a clear precedent not only for journalism but for a range of power dynamics.
Thiel’s grudge against Gawker undoubtedly has grounds, yet his handling of it was vindictive and doled out with a fierce, calculating measure. He utilized his massive wealth and power to take down an entire organization out of an obsessive nine-year-long thirst for vengeance. Billionaires have always been able to control and influence the media, but with this lawsuit, we startling realize they have the power to silence them too.
It's not about liking gawker or the way they do things. It's about the powerful using their power to silence outlets that displease them.— Adam Serwer (@AdamSerwer) June 10, 2016
Gawker might have “deserved” it, but it’s easy to forget its affiliates, like Gizmodo and Jezebel, didn’t. They have done the press’s job of exposing the truth and holding figures and organizations accountable such as when Jezebel uncovered a secretive group in New York City that was preying on vulnerable, young women.
Gawker might be undeserving, but eventually the billionaires will come for "deserving" publications too.— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) June 10, 2016
Furthermore, despite Gawker’s egregious reputation, other media outlets of better character might endure the same downfall. Gawker now, who’s next? The New York Times? The San Francisco Chronicle? The Huffington Post? Could trusted news sources be demolished all because they publish a piece that upsets a powerful leader?
Gawker CEO Nick Denton remains defiant, declaring on Friday that this isn’t the end of the media giant.
Even with his billions, Thiel will not silence our writers. Our sites will thrive — under new ownership — and we'll win in court.— Nick Denton (@nicknotned) June 10, 2016
Yet the news itself has sent a shiver across the digital media world with the heavy realization that censorship is no longer just reserved for countries under Third World dictatorships or communist regimes. Even America has its unforgiving aristocrats.
The news is designed to inform and the Internet media today is overwhelmingly subjective. This tool of analysis, perspective, and insight has resonated with online readers and created a culture where opinion matters. Yet all because one elite, mysterious force was insulted, a media organization can go under. This sly wielding of power should terrify us all.