Earlier in November, former Gawker writer Dayna Evans published “On Gawker’s Problem with Women” in Matter. Evans shared her experience and conversations with other women at the online magazine and exposing a number inequities that are not limited to the world of digital publishing.
Two of the major problems she brings to light are how women at the magazine were given invisible work and discouraged from speaking up about gender pay discrepancies.
Evans takes Gawker’s leadership to task for its token nod to Leah Beckmann, Gawker’s past interim editor-in-chief for “stepping into the breach and helping out” when the site was in a state of flux and she was still able to oversee its highest traffic day in history. Evans calls the recognition out as both dismissive and gendered. “Only a woman would be thanked for ‘helping out.”
Emma Carmichael, Jezebel’s current editor-in-chief and the former managing editor of both Gawker and Deadspin, told Evans:
Gawker’s gossip sites often operate off of more or less ‘invisible’ female management behind the scenes … It’s hard for those women to get recognized for their work, because it’s not on the top of the masthead or on bylines, but they’re the ones pulling the strings each day. Their work isn’t missed until they leave out of frustration or get forced out. It’s a shameful cycle.
Gawker is a hotbed for gossip and pop culture. What cannot be left out is that the media outlet is known for its “sniping, backstabbing culture which is perpetuated by the company’s women too.”
With an editorial philosophy of “why not publish whatever we want” (by male and female staff alike) a problem with rape gifs that the company refused to address, and concern about a sexist work environment that is lacking in diversity – you can only wonder what the leadership board and specifically Gawker founder Nick Denton is thinking.
The following is a quote from an interview that Denton did with the New York Times in July:
“I’d like Gawker to be the best version of itself, taking the best of each era of the site. The scoops of John Cook. The investigations of Adrian Chen or J. K. Trotter. Pop culture from Rich Juzwiak. And some of Max Read’s excellent vision for the site. All the ingredients are there, and the talent. And I’d like to see other properties — category leaders like Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Deadspin and Jezebel — come out from Gawker’s shadow. “Gawker is your one-stop guide to media and pop culture. It is the place you come to learn the real story — the account you won’t (or can’t) find anywhere else.” That’s from Max’s memo at the start of the year.”
Evans points out in her thesis that there are no women in Denton’s ideal vision of Gawker.com, and that no stories by women were held out for praise in an introductory memo from now-official executive editor John Cook.
Jezebel founder Anna Holmes gave Evans her perspective on the way she feels women are treated at Gawker Media:
“My feeling — now more than ever — is that Nick [Denton] has women in two sorts of positions at the company. The few women who actually wield power are, by and large, incredibly competent and dedicated and are expected to clean up other people’s messes and act as emotional caretakers and moral compasses. The women who are not in power, well, it sometimes felt to me like the company saw them as circus acts; provocative and good for pageviews but ultimately very disposable.”
Perhaps one of the most notable disposals of female staff was the aftermath of the notorious Emily Gould and Jimmy Kimmel interview. Shortly after Gould gave a public resignation from Gawker and the New York Times Magazine cover story about her time at the company. Days before the story was published, Denton saw a video of Gould mimicking a blow job on a plastic tube and fed it to Gawker writer to post. Denton remarked when being interviewed for Gawker’s Oral History book: “Why not? She’s a public person. I’m a public person. This was publicly available.”
Evans does reach out to Denton to contribute to her piece, however was met with some difficulty. Evans gracefully concludes, that while Gawker was a publication she once admired and saw her own writing grow amongst talented individuals, she confronted the problem at hand:
Gawker may pride itself on being a trailblazer in the stubbornly slow-to-adapt media, but only if it starts to treat gender favoritism as the toxic epidemic that it is, will that reputation truly be deserved. After all, someone’s gotta do it.