Sam Biddle, editor of Gawker’s technology site, Valleywag, is leaving the publication and transitioning to another role at Gawker Media.
Biddle will spend November on sabbatical. When he returns in December, he will be named Senior Writer at Gawker, focusing on subjects related to the Internet, including cybersecurity, cryptography, activism and politics.
“I expect it will evolve from there, and I fully expect him to write about a wide range of topics that have nothing in particular to do with the Internet,” Gawker’s Editor-in-Chief Max Read told Business Insider in an email. “Sam is one of the great pure bloggers — fast, sharp, opinionated, funny — and I want to run his work on the front page no matter what it ends up being about.”
Nitasha Tiku, who was named co-editor of Valleywag in December, will be taking over Biddle’s responsibilities. She’ll continue to build out the team alongside Kevin Montgomery in San Francisco. Biddle is located in New York, where Gawker is headquartered.
Gawker Media is Nick Denton’s network of sites, which include Jezebel, Deadspin, Gizmodo and Lifehacker. It draws about 64 million monthly unique visitors.
Biddle and Gawker say his transition away from Valleywag has been planned for months. Importantly, they insist the decision preceded Gamergate, a loose online movement that recently targeted Gawker and Biddle specifically, and appears to have damaged the company’s relationship with some advertisers.
Gamergate, which arose in recent months out of an attempt to challenge what proponents consider the poor ethical standards of video game journalism, steadily morphed into a digital mob scene marked by misogyny and intimidation. By Gawker’s definition, it is “a campaign of dedicated anti-feminist internet trolls using an ill-informed mob of alienated and resentful video game-playing teenagers and young men to harass and intimidate female activists, journalists, and critics.”
Biddle and Gawker became a target for Gamergate protesters when he tweeted a series of statements he insists were sarcastic. One read:
Bring Back Bullying
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) October 16, 2014
If we understand it correctly, his point, which was highly nuanced for Twitter, was to voice support for the mostly female targets of Gamergate by suggesting that the hardcore video game fans attacking them were the sort of people — geeks, basically — who would have themselves been bullied in an earlier era.
Of course, nobody — feminists, videogamers, or anyone else — deserves to be bullied.
The Gamergate community responded by posting a list of Gawker’s advertisers online, and urging supporters to contact the brands directly to ask if they support bullying too.
Biddle is known in the technology community for his snark; his writing occasionally puts Silicon Valley on blast. But the Gamergate community clearly didn’t appreciate his sense of humour.
“I have literally not seen a single person who is not a Gamergate supporter who did not get that I was very obviously joking,” Biddle told Re/code in an email. “Not a single one.”
A source says Biddle’s snark wasn’t appreciated by all of Gawker’s management team, either, though, which may have added a certain urgency to the editorial shuffle. The response by Adobe, which promptly distanced itself from bullying, and from Gawker, in a tweet, was an ominous sign, which may have made a full-scale advertiser exodus all too easy to imagine. But according to Read, no one at Gawker “encouraged” Biddle to move and his writing is appreciated both internally and externally.
“I told Max this was what I wanted months ago,” Biddle told Business Insider in an email. “That is to say, I am 100% not being ‘moved.'”
In September, Biddle was approached by former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio to work for his forthcoming site, Ratter, which may also have sparked conversations about his position at Valleywag.
“I’ve been anxious for several months now to make use of Sam’s formidable talents as a writer and reporter on Gawker proper — and he’s ready to broaden his horizons and expand his scope to non-tech industry subjects,” Read added.
Valleywag is here to stay, Gawker Media insists, although Denton has shut down the publication before. Read says it will continue to operate under Tiku, whom he notes has broken more exclusive stories this year than any other writer at the company. Tiku’s reporting was largely responsible for the firing of G Chahal, RadiumOne’s founder who allegedly beat a former girlfriend more than 100 times in one evening. She also unearthed leaked revenue figures for $US18 billion car company, Uber, and discovered how much money Snapchat’s founders pocketed during a massive round of financing.
“Under Nitasha and Sam, Valleywag became compulsory daily reading for everyone in tech; its reporting and writing has been as strong and smart as ever; its days are not numbered,” Read told us. “It will continue to operate similarly (that is to say: excellently!) under Nitasha and Kevin with the significant and exciting difference that both of them are based in San Francisco and can increase the amount of on-the-ground Silicon Valley reporting and writing.”
“Sam is smart, fast, and has a strong voice,” Tiku told Business Insider of her Valleywag counterpart. “It will be a huge bummer not to be in a chatroom together all day just shaking our heads at whatever tweetstorms, but he’s just a Slack chat away and I’m excited to see him on his new beat.”
Tiku says Valleywag is well positioned to continue driving conversations around key issues in technology, including diversity, brogrammers, and Silicon Valley’s “awkward transition from the underdog to power central.”
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