The Untimely Demise of Gawker

After 13 years of providing an unfiltered look at society, closed its figurative doors on 22 Aug. To be fair, I'm sure there was a brick and mortar office with real doors that was similarly shut, but I digress.
Gawker released an excerpt of a sex tape featuring Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, and Heather Clem. While the video footage is only a minute long, the article is essentially a play-by-play of the video, the entire 30 minutes recounted for eager readers. According to the publication, the footage was given by an anonymous, uncredited source. Apparently, Bollea didn't take kindly to Gawker spreading this intimate moment far and wide across the internet.

In all, apart from holding a claim on the company and personal assets, $140 million has been awarded to Bollea after a trial court judgement in his Florida privacy case. The former editor and author of the damning article, AJ Daulerio, has a $230 million hold on his checking account.

The financially-crippling Bollea v. Gawker lawsuit bankrupted the media outlet. Even still, Gawker Media Group had several still-breathing publications under its control - Lifehacker, Deadspin (sports), Kotaku (games), Jalopnik (cars), Gizmodo (tech), and Jezebel (news and gossip). Staffers from collected their words and woes before migrating to other avenues of work within Gawker Media Group. These separate media outlets have been adopted by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications for $135 million. Senior Writer Hamilton Nolan of Gawker has gone the way of a ship captain, accompanying the sinking flagship of to the bottom of the ocean, complete with a final word on the matter.

Maybe this seems above board, suing a publication for sullying your good name, but the waters muddy when Peter Thiel's hand appears strumming the strings of fate.

The History

Gawker has made it their mission to systematically expose the underbelly of the world through unmitigated blogging. Without a baseline in sight, the ultimate goal of Gawker was serving the truth, generously peppered with shock value. Unsurprisingly, this struck a chord with some, especially those who fell victim to the Gawker rampage.

It all begins to make sense when we review 2007 articles, where Gawker outed Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and tech billionaire, as gay. The piece Gawker wrote is somewhat inspiring, albeit a total breach of privacy. In it, Gawker condemns old boys' clubs for their rigid views and speaks to Thiel's gumption for rising against the grain ... all without alluding to the fact that Gawker was outing a powerful venture capitalist player.

Consumed with revenge and murder, Thiel began to fund other offended people's lawsuits against Gawker. If you look closely at the Gawker page, you can just make out a pair of steepled hands and a Cheshire grin in the margins as a legacy of straight-out writing crashes down. In the words of Hamilton Nolan, "Gawker was anarchist journalism at its finest. Every day, a page to be filled; every day, a chance for greatness, or idiocy. This site contains the very best and worst things that many writers have written. This fact drives many people mad."

It wasn't until March that Thiel's scheme began to hold water thanks to his beneficiary, Terry Bollea (a.k.a. Hulk Hogan). Once the former wrestler locked Gawker in a strangle hold to the tune of $140 million, the company had no choice but to declare bankruptcy. Though Gawker is appealing against the decision, the likelihood of it resurfacing from the depths is slim. Bollea won the lawsuit because the invasion of privacy was so extreme.

Thiel has won. His revenge has come to fruition. He has put a stopper on freedom of speech by snuffing out a publication that has prided itself on screaming out what others would ignore. Gawker has suffered a killing blow, and so ends an era.

The Aftermath

Thiel's outing isn't the first Gawker story to bring the media outlet under siege. They were known for being mean and brash, judging the world on their own terms before they took other views into account; but they stood against the current and that was to their detriment.

If a media outlet can be brought to its knees by a billionaire set on silencing a voice, what now?

The death of Gawker wasn't some grand scheme carried out beneath the consciousness of lawmakers, it was orchestrated by the legal system. Bollea attempted to bring the lawsuit to court twice, where the judge ruled the publication newsworthy and protected. Somehow, though, the case made it through, piggybacked on  the publications' repeated "push the envelope" mentality. The monetary sum awarded to Bollea was more than he asked for, enough to send Gawker spiraling into financial ruin.

There had been one too many ventures to the wild side, where exposure was more important than relevance. An internal struggle between the business and editorial sides of Gawker split the publication in more ways than one, including causing an internal upset in CEO Nick Denton.

In an article discussing the final demise of Gawker,  Executive Features Editor Tom Scocca says, "There is no freedom in this world but power and money."

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