Type of site
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Gawker is an American blog founded by Nick Denton and Elizabeth Spiers and based in New York City. It promotes itself as "the source for daily Manhattan media news and gossip". It focuses on celebrities and the media industry.
Gawker was originally edited by Elizabeth Spiers, then by Choire Sicha, from August 2003 to August 2004. When Sicha became editorial director of Gawker Media in August 2004, Jessica Coen was hired to be the website editor. The editor position was split between two co-editors in 2005, and Coen was joined by guest editors from a variety of New York City-based blogs; Matt Haber was engaged as co-editor for several months, and Jesse Oxfeld joined for longer. In July 2006, Oxfeld's contract was not renewed, and Alex Balk was installed. Chris Mohney, formerly of Gridskipper, Gawker Media's travel blog, was hired for the newly created position of managing editor.
On September 28, 2006, Coen announced in a post on Gawker that she would be leaving the site to become deputy online editor at Vanity Fair. Balk shared responsibility for the Gawker site with co-editor Emily Gould. Associate editor Maggie Shnayerson also began writing for the site; she replaced Doree Shafrir, who left in September 2007 for the New York Observer.
In February 2007, Sicha returned from his position at the The New York Observer, and replaced Mohney as the Managing Editor. On September 21, 2007, Gawker announced that Balk would depart to edit Radar magazine's website; he would be replaced by Alex Pareene of Wonkette.
The literary journal n+1 published a long piece on the history and future of Gawker, concluding that, "You could say that as Gawker Media grew, from Gawker’s success, Gawker outlived the conditions for its existence".
In 2008, weekend editor Ian Spiegelman quit Gawker because Denton fired his friend Sheila McClear without cause. He made that clear in several comments on the site at the time. He left a comment on the site denouncing what he said was its practice of hiring full-time employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying taxes and employment benefits.
On November 12, 2008, the company announced selling the popular site Consumerist (blog) and the folding of Valleywag, with Managing Editor Owen Thomas being demoted to a columnist on Gawker, and the rest of the staff being laid off. Some members and staff writers complained that owner Nick Denton was looking to sell out all of the Gawker sites while they were still profitable.
In December 2009, Denton was nominated for "Media Entrepreneur of the Decade" by Adweek, and Gawker was named "Blog of the Decade" by the advertising trade. Brian Morrissey of Adweek said "Gawker remains the epitome of blogging: provocative, brash, and wildly entertaining".
In February 2010, Denton announced that Gawker was acquiring the "people directory" site CityFile.com, and was hiring that site's editor and publisher, Remy Stern, as the new editor-in-chief of Gawker. Gabriel Snyder, who had been editor-in-chief for the previous 18 months and had greatly increased the site's readership, released a memo saying he was being let go from the job.
In December 2011, A. J. Daulerio, former Editor-in-Chief of Gawker Media sports site Deadspin, replaced Remy Stern as Editor-in-Chief at Gawker. The company replaced several other editors, contributing editors, and authors; others left. Richard Lawson went to the Atlantic Wire, a blog of the magazine, Atlantic Monthly. 
In 2012, the website changed its focus away from editorial content and toward what its new editor-in-chief A. J. Daulerio called "traffic whoring" and "SEO bomb throws". In January 2013 Daulerio reportedly asked for more responsibility over other Gawker Media properties, but after a short time was pushed out by publisher Denton. Daulerio was replaced as editor-in-chief by longtime Gawker writer John Cook.
Gawker usually publishes more than 20 posts daily during the week, sometimes reaching 30 posts a day, with limited publishing on the weekends. The site also publishes content from its sister sites. Gawker's content consists of celebrity and media industry gossip, critiques of mainstream news outlets, and New York-centric stories. The stories generally come from anonymous tips from media employees, found mistakes and faux pas in news stories caught by readers and other blogs, and original reporting.
On July 3, 2006, when publisher Nick Denton replaced Jesse Oxfeld with Alex Balk, Oxfeld claimed it was an attempt to make the blog more mainstream and less media-focused, ending a tradition of heavy media coverage at Gawker.
On March 14, 2006, Gawker.com launched Gawker Stalker Maps, a mashup of the site's Gawker Stalker feature and Google Maps. After this Gawker Stalker, originally a weekly roundup of celebrity sightings in New York City submitted by Gawker readers, was frequently updated, and the sightings are displayed on a map.
The feature has drawn criticism from celebrities and publicists for encouraging stalking. Actor and director George Clooney's rep Stan Rosenfeld described Gawker Stalker as "a dangerous thing". Jessica Coen has said that the map is harmless, that Gawker readers are "for the most part, a very educated, well-meaning bunch", and that "if there is someone really intending to do a celebrity harm, there are much better ways to go about doing that than looking at the Gawker Stalker". Gawker.com/stalker now redirects to gawker.com/tag/stalker and the map is no longer posted online.
Gawker's coverage of benefit cuts announced December 4, 2007, for freelancers working at media company Viacom and the ensuing publicity has been reported as resulting in Viacom's reinstating many of the workers' benefits. After Viacom "permalancers" took to the streets for several days to protest the cuts, Gawker reported on December 12, 2007, that the company had reversed its position. On January 31, 2008, Gawker's Maggie Shnayerson reported that Viacom subsidiary MTV Networks would convert 1,000 freelance jobs to full-time positions.
On January 15, 2008, Gawker mirrored the Scientology video featuring Tom Cruise from the recently removed posting on YouTube. They soon posted a copyright infringement notice written by lawyers for Scientology. As of January 3, 2009, the video has not been removed and no lawsuit was filed.
On September 17, 2008, in reporting that pranksters associated with 4Chan had hacked the personal e-mail account of Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Gawker published screenshots of the emails, photos, and address list obtained by the hackers. While accessing personal e-mail accounts without authorization constitutes a federal crime, current DOJ interpretation of this statute following the decision in Theofel v. Farey-Jones is that perpetrators may be prosecuted only for reading "unopened" emails. FBI Spokesman Eric Gonzalez in Anchorage, Alaska, confirmed that an investigation was underway.
On July 17, 2009, Gawker-owned sports blog Deadspin reported that ESPN lawyers sent a letter to a website owner who was hosting videos of a woman who looked like journalist Erin Andrews. After that story broke, Andrews' attorney confirmed that she was featured in the peephole video.
In December 2010, DNS service for WikiLeaks went offline in the United States. Gawker misreported that easyDNS was to blame; EveryDNS was the DNS provider for the domain wikileaks.org. Gawker responded to complaints from easyDNS:
easyDNS complained that they were unjustly scolded after Gawker had slandered them.
In February 2011, Gawker posted an email exchange between United States Congressman Chris Lee and a woman he had met through a personal ad on Craigslist. The emails included the married Lee describing himself as a divorced lobbyist and a photo of him posing shirtless. Lee resigned his Congressional seat within hours of Gawker's story.
On December 11, 2010, Gawker and Gizmodo were hacked by a group named Gnosis. The hackers gained root access to the Linux-based servers, access to the source code, access to Gawker's custom CMS, databases (including writer and user passwords), Google Apps, and real-time chat logs from Gawker's Campfire instance, in addition to the Twitter accounts of Nick Denton and Gizmodo. The hacker Group stated that they went after Gawker for their "outright arrogance" and for a previous feud between Gawker and 4Chan. Gawker asked all its users to change their passwords and posted an advisory notice as well.
On October 12, 2012, Adrian Chen posted an article identifying Reddit moderator Violentacrez as Michael Brutsch. In the days prior to publication of the story, Reddit's main politics channel, r/politics, and a number of other forums on the site banned Gawker links from their page; at one point, Gawker was banned from all of Reddit.
In November 2011, Nick Denton announced that Deadspin editor-in-chief A. J. Daulerio would replace Remy Stern as editor-in-chief at Gawker. At the time, Daulerio was known for publishing a photograph of Brett Favre's penis at Deadspin, despite the recipient of the photograph, Florida State University Cowgirl Jenn Sterger, explicitly requesting that he not do so.
Daulerio shifted the focus of the site away from editorial content and more toward what he described as "traffic-whoring" and "SEO bomb-throws." Daulerio wrote of the site's editorial content contributors, "The writers not relegated to traffic-whoring duty will still post, just less frequently than many of them are probably used to." As part of Daulerio's changes, he printed a private e-mail to Nick Denton from NBC News anchor Brian Williams complaining about the weekend content and its coverage of Lana Del Rey on Saturday Night Live. NBC's public relations department asked the site to take it down, writing, "That was sent in confidence as friends and absolutely never intended to be public". Daulerio responded that e-mails are publishable and that people such as Williams should be "prepared for the tar and feathering that will follow". Williams reportedly received an apology from Denton, but on NBC's news magazine Rock Center, Denton said only that it was a "mess up" but he did not apologize.
Daulerio also changed the site's commenter system. In April 2012, all "starred" commenters (people whose comments were automatically given prominence) lost their rankings. The new proprietary algorithm to promote comments, called Powwow, is done via a computer as opposed to human commenters. Andrew Phelps, writing for Nieman Journalism Lab, stated, "Half of people think Gawker is diluting its high-quality material with Chinese goats; the other half think Gawker should stick to Chinese goats and stop trying to do real journalism".