MEDIA

10 Stories That Made Gawker Infamous

If you care about free speech, then you should care about Gawker.

By now you know that Gawker.com is shuttering.

The announcement Thursday comes after Gawker Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June as a result of losing a long legal battle with Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel.

The popular site had a foggy future after the filing, despite its 13 years of tendentious and thought-provoking journalism. Univision bought Gawker Media on Tuesday and will continue to operate its other properties, but it will close down the flagship site. 

Gawker developed a distinctive profile among digital news outlets: loved by some, loathed by many.

It came to be known as a site that produced truly hilarious, life-changing, muckraking stories, but that also engaged in controversial, provocative and sometimes unethical reporting.

Whatever its legacy, Gawker’s closure sets a dangerous precedent: that billionaires can successfully shut down media outlets they dislike.

We’ve gathered some of Gawker’s most infamous works to bid farewell.

1. For Sale: A Video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Smoking Crack Cocaine

Gawker raised $200,000 to bankroll the purchase of an iPhone video that showed Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. The deal to buy the video fell through before the purchase happened, but the coverage of the behind-the-scenes conversations to get it was thrilling. Three years later, after Ford’s death, the video was finally published ― free of charge.

2. Gawker Stalker

If you had a close encounter with a big-name celebrity in New York City, you could map it on Gawker Stalker Maps, a celebrity-tracking Google Maps mashup. Some celebrities were not happy about it, claiming the information it provided was untrue and that they feared for their personal safety. Ex-Gawker editor Emily Gould addressed complaints about it on Jimmy Kimmel in 2007. 

3. How We Fooled Donald Trump Into Retweeting Benito Mussolini

Gawker senior writer Ashley Feinberg created a bot ― @ilduce2016 ― that tweeted several times a day at Donald Trump. They did this for the sole purpose of proving that Trump would retweet anything so long as it “sounded like praise for himself.” They were right.

4. My 14-Hour Search for the End of TGI Friday’s Endless Appetizers

Intrepid reporter Caity Weaver spent far too long in a TGI Friday’s to produce what is, truly, one of the most hilarious play-by-play stories we’ve ever read. All told, Weaver ate 32 mozzarella sticks and convinced us that chain restaurants are where souls go to die.

5. Family Values Activist Josh Duggar Had a Paid Ashley Madison Account 

After last summer’s Ashley Madison data leak and Josh Duggar sexual assault claims, Gawker found that the TV star had an account with the notorious cheating site. It was a bizarre, unexpected twist to an already elaborate mess of a story.

6. Condé Nast’s CFO Tried To Pay $2,500 for a Night With a Gay Porn Star

This is easily the most controversial piece on this list and it doesn’t even exist on the site anymore because founder Nick Denton took it down. There were plenty of issues with editor Jordan Sargent’s story. It lacked news value because the person it was about wasn’t a public figure. Sargent brazenly outed him, yet respected the confidentiality of the escort who was his source. 

Sargent wasn’t fired, but he was relegated to making food videos where he tries everyday food items for the first time. They were both lackluster and extremely weird. 

7. “The Best Restaurant” Series

Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak visited assorted restaurants everywhere from New York City to Epcot Center, Florida, to produce an extensive series of candid reviews. Try to get through one of them without cracking up. We’ll bet you can’t.

8. The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug Imaginable

Back when New Yorker writer Adrian Chen was still at Gawker, he wrote the first real exposé of the now-defunct online drug marketplace, Silk Road. Equal parts shocking and riveting, the piece came just two years before the marketplace shuttered.

9. The “Food Babe” Blogger Is Full of Shit

This deep-dive into the world of Vani Hari, the “Food Babe,” and her respective health claims was a takedown for the ages. Well-researched, this was the sort of muckraking where Gawker shone.

10. Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web

Another piece by Adrian Chen, this profile of internet troll and Redditor Michael Brutsch sparked a heated conversation ― just scroll through the very intense comments ― about anonymity on the web. It prompted readers to question where the line is between investigative journalism and purely unethical reporting.

R.I.P. Gawker. It’s the end of an era.

HuffPost

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