By Miles Brown
July 17, 2014
Last week, anonymous Jezebel writers went to Capital Magazine to lament the fact that Gawker Media head Nick Denton passed over Dodai Stewart for the position of editor-in-chief. Stewart, who has worked with Jezebel from its’ inception, rose to become senior editor and has filled in for former editor-in-chief Jessica Cohen on occasion. She was passed over for Emma Carmichael, who previously edited the feminist blog “The Hairpin’” and has contributed to Gawker and Deadspin as well.
Stewart had become a favorite of a good number of the readers of Jezebel. She has proven herself exceedingly capable of doing the job she apparently wasn’t good enough for multiple times. It seems like Gawker is working backwards if it thinks that hiring a pretty white girl just a few years out of college is a better move than hiring a more qualified black woman who is the longest tenured person on the site.
This isn’t about hiring Stewart because she’s black or because she’s been with the site the longest. Like many have said, this was a real missed opportunity to show its readers and the wider media that Gawker is a publication that is as forward thinking in its actions as it is in its rhetoric and stories. As the Jezebel staffers who complained said:
I would not say that I think it is like a racist action, but it is kind of a missed opportunity. The race thing would have been a really wonderful—just like to have a really well-established Black woman who is so good at her job running the site would have been great.
This might be shocking to some of you, but I have a suspicion that this move was neither racially motivated (that much) nor made with the thought of the quality of Jezebel going forward at all. The signs point to this move being financially motivated — for clicks. Stewart has been around for a while and is almost 40 years old. It appears that the higher ups in Gawker probably thought they could get more clicks/money out of a young, white female as the head of Jezebel than someone who looks like Stewart. It seems that this decision was geared with advertisers in mind, to show them that they are serious about targeting the key demo of Jezebel.
Making personnel decisions based on finances is not a bad thing, especially in this economic climate. In fact it is applauded in most circles. But when your sole purpose as a media publication is to get clicks at any and all costs, then that is where the problem arises.
The truth is that Gawker sees the people that read their articles not as readers, but as clickers. Everything they do revolves around getting more clicks, no matter how illegitimate and unprofessional it makes them look. Examples of this include the hiring of leadership based on maximum number of clicks, ridiculous clickbait headlines, and articles from these clickbait headlines making no logical sense because they are steeped in confirmation bias. Most egregious though is Gawker’s outright refusal to fact check the articles they put out for fear of not being the first to break a story, thereby maximizing clicks once again.
When you have motivations such as these, it damages the relationship a writer has with its’ readers. Especially when those readers continuously point out your mistakes and your pompous, irresponsible attitude towards journalism. At this point, Gawker Media has as much credibility as Upworthy, in that the missions of both these respective click pages run one in the same. Gawker provides nothing of value to its’ reader except the opportunity for them to click away at something that was most likely just spliced together. Not with the purpose of relaying beneficial information to them or to provoke thought, but rather to fatten their pockets and egos at the expense of the reader.
Gawker doesn’t care if they’re wrong or even about their reputation. They just care that you clicked. We can’t just let them run roughshod over the institution of journalism. We have to call them out for what they are to make sure that professionalism, objectivity and quality do not become foreign concepts in how news is presented and read.
Gawker will get away with their new brand of “journalism” as long as they continue to get clicks. My suggestion to you all is to slowly phase Gawker media out of your lives forever. It starts with unliking all of their pages. If their tempting salacious headlines aren’t there for you to click, you won’t click them. Then, refrain from playing into their game when you see a friend online post something or retweet one of their inane articles. Basically: Don’t click. The world will be better for it.