Gawker is no more.
The snarky, often-controversial, fearless gossip and politics blog closed its doors for good on Monday night, signing off with a series of of essays and reflections from Gawker writers, and a final post from founder Nick Denton entitled “How Things Work.”
After being bankrupted by a surreal legal battle with former pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan, secretly funded by vengeful billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel, the media company was sold to Univision for $135 million (£102 million) earlier in August.
Univision is keeping most of Gawker Media’s websites open, including tech blog Gizmodo and sports news site Deadspin. But it has taken the decision to permanently close Gawker.com, Gawker Media’s flagship title. (There have been no redundancies as a result of the closure, with Gawker.com writers offered roles at other Gawker Media properties.)
Gawker.com did not publish any traditional news stories on Monday — instead, opting for a series of retrospectives and essays that were at times nostalgic, and at times bitterly angry.
“Anyone who made a living doing this for one single day is luckier than most,” wrote Hamilton Nolan, the site’s longest-serving writer. “We are certainly grateful for the chance we had to type things for you all.”
Tom Scocca took a different tone, signing off with a dark message:
“Gawker always said it was in the business of publishing true stories. Here is one last true story: You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection.
“If you want to write stories that might anger a billionaire, you need to work for another billionaire yourself, or for a billion-dollar corporation. The law will not protect you. There is no freedom in this world but power and money.”
Choire Sicha situates Gawker in the great pantheon of shuttered media publications alongside Spy and Grantland, writing that “Gawker existed for far longer than anyone deserved. It stayed long enough to win. The moment will come soon enough when you need a Gawker, and you’ll be furious that you no longer have one.”
Its final post on Sunday, Gawker’s last day of “regular” news publishing, was an irreverent piece from Hudson Hongo entitled “F–k it” that bidded readers “goodnight, friends.”
It then went on to list numerous stories Gawker has published over the years that include the work “f–k” in the headline — from “Horse Genitals Taste of Hay and More Curious Delights from a Horsef–ker” to “Public Television Virgins Wish You Wouldn’t Make Arthur F–k.”
While the editorial team at Gawker Media has avoided redundancies, founder Nick Denton will not be joining Univision with them. In what he wrote would be Gawker’s “final post,” he closed off the site’s 13-year legacy like so:
“One of Gawker’s most cherished tags was “How Things Work,” a rubric that applied to posts revealing the sausage-making, the secret ways that power manifests itself. The phrase has a children’s book feel to it, bringing to mind colourful illustrations of animals in human work clothes building houses or delivering mail. Of course it also carries the morbid sense of innocence lost, and the distance between the stories we tell ourselves about the world and the way itactually works. Collapsing that distance is, in many ways, what Gawker has always been about.
“And so Gawker’s demise turns out to be the ultimate Gawker story. It shows how things work.”
Gawker has always been deeply controversial. It was known for pushing boundaries, and often produced deeply reported, powerful public interest journalism — but also drew some hefty criticism. The case that finally undid the site was a 2012 news article that included a video of wrestler Hulk Hogan — real name Terry Bollea — having sex.
The site maintained publishing the video was in the public interest, but Bollea sued, ultimately being awarded $140 million (£106 million) in damages — a ruling that bankrupted the site.
In a strange twist, it emerged that Bollea’s legal case had been secretly bankrolled by Peter Thiel, a libertarian Silicon Valley investor, who has held a 10-year grudge against Gawker since the site published an article discussing his sexuality.
Thiel had also been funding other legal cases brought against Gawker in an attempt to destroy the site — and now Univision has decided to discontinue Gawker.com, Thiel has effectively achieved his objective.