How Gawker turned news into a four letter word

For those new to the Gawker saga and struggling to keep up (and I certainly am), we've decided to put together a "Best Of" of the Gawker scandals over the years. Of course, Gawker Media are a company who's mission has always been to court scandal and seek controversy; fitting that with a $115M lawsuit lost to Hulk Hogan and with additional damages still to be rewarded, scandal and controversy are likely to bury them financially too. Events are in chronological order.

April 6, 2007 - Emily Gould, Gawker Editor defends 'Gawker Stalker' on the Jimmy Kimmel show, ignoring accusations from guests that it could lead to real stalkings and attacks. Laughing at the suggestion that someone might be killed, she giggles coquettish and channels her best Dolores Umbridge, shrugging it off with sociopathic glee. She defends her 'Stalker Map' as "citizen journalism", saying that people who read it "don't expect it to be gospel." This starts Gawker's insistence that "no one has the reasonable expectation of privacy".

May 11, 2010 - Gawker posts a video of the young woman engaged in a sex act in a bathroom stall at a Bloomington sports bar. Despite the fact they are contacted and told "I am the girl in it and it was stolen from me and put up without my permission" - Gawker refuses to take down the video. Later evidence shows that even though Editor Albert “A.J.” Daulerio knew it was "possibly rape", Gawker's complaint department sent this note to him headed "Blah, blah, blah". Daulerio tells the women "do not make a big deal out of this", supported by the Gawker team who insist the video is "newsworthy". They later remove it.

Jan 8, 2013 - After filing a Freedom of Information request with the NYPD, Gawker Editor John Cook publishes a list of all handgun owners in New York. In addition, he encourages readers to (and I quote) "look no further" if they want to dig up addresses - directing them to shady anonymous spreadsheets where "the addresses of 300,000 [gun-owners] are freely available". One commenter writers, "The journal posted my address and name for my gun ownership. My past stalker saw this. I haven't heard from him in two years, because I disappeared. Now he is back and calling me......thanks to people like you bunch of a*******, looks like I will have to protect myself from becoming a murder victim. Gracias."

July 20, 2015 - Two Senior Editors, Tommy Craggs and Max Read resign from Gawker Media following controversy over article 'outing' Condé Nast CFO David Geithner. The controversy came from the fact that a) Geithner was not a celebrity or a famous person, just an ordinary guy, and b) The 'news piece' essentially amounted to a revenge-outing and the worst kind of malicious destructive blackmail. After Gawker decided to pull the piece, then Editor-in-Chief Read claimed "That non-editorial business executives were given a vote in the decision to remove [the article] is an unacceptable and unprecedented breach of the editorial firewall." British people were reminded of the Phone Hacking Scandal, and wondered how this pair kept out of jail.

Those are just a few of the most memorable events in Gawker history that come to mind when we asked around Adland HQ. But now you're caught up, let's take an advertising perspective. Do you think brands should still be advertising on Gawker after all of this? Well, are they? Let's find out. We took a trip to a few Gawker-owned website to discover who's currently giving them money.

Kotaku: We got served an ad for the new 'Hitman' game.

Imagine if the people behind 'Hitman' started getting contacted on twitter and received hundreds of emails to investor relations. We are sure Square Enix would be forced to pull all their ads from Gawker.

Jezebel: We got served an ad from 'CASA for Children'.

"Give abused and neglected children a voice..."
Meanwhile in the Hulk Hogan sex tape case:
“Can you imagine a situation where a celebrity sex tape would not be newsworthy?”
Daulerio: “If they were a child.”
“Under what age?” attorney Charles Harder asked.
“Four,” he said.
Make sure those abused and neglected kids are at least five ... then they're fair game for the Gawker network!
Wouldn't it be a shame if someone were to point that out to the charity?
Send an email of complaint

Gizmodo: We got served an ad for 'Johnson Cornell University'.

Do they know they are advertising on the Gawker network?
Emails of their entire marketing and communications team

Now these are just three examples I've pulled at random.

The point being - do Square Enix, CASA for Children, and Johnson Cornell University know that they are advertising on Gawker network? And would they continue to do so, if they received a huge amount of negative publicity for it? It's shocking to me, that in this day and age, people are still advertising with Gawker. I can only assume they are unawares. And THAT is the problem with buying digital space. You never know which gutter your prestigious company, your charity, or your university, will end up in. As for these examples - would they be happy to learn their brands are on the landing pages of a company who made news into a four letter word?

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Bitterbear's picture

And I wonder.. Are video game developers a captive client to these sites? I mean, they have shown that they're useless when it comes to pushing sales, BUT, they have proven to be very effective at running sales to the ground AND tarnishing a company/developer's reputation.

If anything, this decade is going to be proven as the golden age of journalistic malpractice.

annoymous's picture

I would like to see this expanded to a more complete list. I can't believe you guys left out the coca-cola mein kampf thing from last year

Dabitch's picture

Fair point, the Gawker trolled Coke thing that Gawker defended when called on it was a pretty big deal. And, to quote myself Jezebel is all too often "breathlessly decrying sexist advertising even when it's such a stretch that Mister Fantastic can't make it", in some sort of pointless exercise of virtue signalling their paint-by-numbers "feminism". Like when they hated on the Playtex ads because feminists aren't supposed to care about hygine or something. My mother wrote for Ms magazine in 74-79, she regularly scoffs at the headlines I show her from Jezebel.

Also, lets not forget Gawker brought back bullying and ruined Justine Sacco's life.

Dabitch's picture

Elkins at Business Insider made a similar list and notes that Gawker lost a big chunk of money due to losing sponsors, however some of this is incorrect:

October 2014: Adobe pulled its Gawker sponsorship after a writer tweeted a joke about bullying in the gaming industry. Gawker ran a series of posts about the GamerGate movement — and one of its writers tweeted that GamerGate “nerds” deserve to be “constantly shamed and degraded into submission” — that reportedly resulted in advertisers including Adobe and Mercedes-Benz tempering their ad dollars. Politico reported that it cost Gawker “seven figures” in lost advertising revenue.

Adobe wasn't a sponsor, we noted this in October 2014;

Take Adobe for instance, even Adage is misrepresenting what happened to them, as they state Adobe ".....gave in to their demands before fully understanding the situation."
Adobe however, has simply stated that they were not in fact a partner with Gawker and asked to have their logo removed from the partner page. That's a story of false advertising, but when only the social media accounts handle PR and there's nobody picking up the phone at brands PR headquarters these days, it's no wonder even the tradepress isn't getting that story right.

We have Adobe's only statement on that embedded in this article here. I alerted Elkins to this on Twitter.

T0Y's picture

In addition to all of the above and the linked other articles, I have a little non exhaustive list right here.
I am glad to see more and more people speaking out and actually fighting the internet and the online "press" cancer that is Gawker.

Wingchild's picture

Note: Emily Gould's 2007 "Gawker Stalker" appearance was on Larry King Live. Kimmel was filling in for King.

Dabitch's picture

Duly noted, Wingchild, cheers.