Gawker Gets Newsier; Snarky Backlash Inevitable

By Staff

job posting at Gawker, the notorious Manhattan media and gossip blog, has attracted more than 11,000 page views since it went up on November 30. That puts it a few thousand page views behind “The Broadcast Media React to Jamie Lynn Spears’ Unexpected Knocking-Up,” but well ahead of most other posts on the site.

Why does this matter? Because Gawker recently started paying its writers based on the number of times posts are viewed. I wonder if whoever published the job post will see a little boost in his or her next paycheck.

The new pay-per-page-view system ticked off at least one of Gawker’s editors, Emily Gould, who quit at the end of November.  “It really gets in your head in this weird way because you’re getting so conscious of how many people are reading what,” she told the New York Times. “You get focused on being sensational and even more brain candyish than Gawker was to start with.”

Gould’s departure coincided with that of two other editors, and Gawker’s staffing overhaul is inspiring some major changes. Here’s a clip from the much-viewed job posting I mentioned above:

It’s no longer enough to take stories from the New York Times, and add a dash of snark. Gawker needs to break and develop more stories. And the new managing editor will need to hire and manage reporters, as well as bloggers. . . . Think of Gawker less as a blog than as a full-blown news site. The right candidate will oversee Gawker’s evolution.

Hold up. “Breaking and developing stories”?  “Reporters”? “Full-blown news site”? This coming from a site that pays writers per page view?

This is a far cry from what I learned in journalism school. Of course journalists are supposed to get paid, but there’s a higher goal too: Informing the public. Journalists are supposed to write truthful information that the public needs to know, even if it’s not necessarily what they are most interested in reading. But by paying writers per page view, Gawker is encouraging its “reporters” to write sensational headlines that shock rather than stories that are important or take thought and time to read. 

As long as it’s paying per page view, Gawker should just stick to what it’s good at: being an entertaining distraction from my workday.

Sarah Pumroy

For fun background reading on the history of Gawker, check out these articles at n+1 and New York Magazine.

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