This is an edited version of a segment of a recent newsletter.
Did you read Gawker? It was a website, part of an eponymous media group, of which I had no real understanding before moving to New York. Its riches took me by surprise.
Gawker, the parent of which earlier this year filed for bankruptcy, fucked up several times. I've never before tried to articulate what attracted and attracts me so much, still, to its tone and its shtick, but during the week of its end, I can briefly try.
My first meaningful brush with Gawker occurred a month before I moved to New York last year. The consequence of its reporting appeared on my screen less than 24 hours later. Holy shit, I remember thinking. Can it be that US media successfully manages to police itself like this?
New to the idea, my imagination did what it could to come up with anomalistic circumstances that would help me make sense of what I regarded as a very radical set of events. I did not have to rely on imagining anything for very long at all.
Week after week, I read at Gawker volumes of writing and reporting more plain, cutting, and direct than I had seen anywhere. The identification of a plagiarist was not an exception at all. It, and other reporting like it, was the norm. I was, and remain, overawed.
Professional conventions adhered to by journalists when it comes to journalism in Ireland--sets of polite but indeliberate parameters that I, in my time there, learned and operated within--were exposed to me, by Gawker, as readily enabling a decline in the quality of journalism.
Among these Irish conventions, in all cases cultural, unspoken, and entrenched: silence in the face of ethical shortcoming, supine tolerance of plummeting standards, and inattentive resignation to plagiarism of all varieties, to the soil creep of commerce into editorial, to the prevalence of flamboyant bullshit.
For years I believed that to decide to flout the turn-other-cheek courtesy extended across the board by the media to the media in Ireland was to isolate oneself in a risky fashion, or to resign oneself to running an operation that was fast, loose, and, probably, mean for mean's sake.
For journalists to call other journalists out is hard, it is awkward, and it takes courage. But it is also worth it, and I believe it is necessary. Gawker was far, far better at it than any other outlet I have encountered. It transformed my way of thinking for the better. I am incredibly sad that it has been forced to stop.