2 Things We Learned From Gawker Founder Nick Denton’s Response To Peter Thiel | Gradient

2 things we learned from Gawker founder Nick Denton’s response to Peter Thiel

nick_dentonNick Denton, Gawker’s co-founder, struck back against billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel, penning a cutting open letter reviewing many of Gawker’s recent tech enemies (including Thiel), speculating upon the motives people like Thiel use to fund his company’s demise. Here are two key takeaways from Gawker, vis-a-vis Denton’s perspective on Thiel’s campaign:

Gawker envisions itself as a small media company fighting the real big bully.

In Denton’s assessment, Thiel is recoiling against the “harsh words of the writers of a small New York media company.” To Denton’s credit, Gawker doesn’t have a stake in Facebook, so it’s not a stretch to call out the billionaire class of Silicon Valley tech executives as the next link up the food chain. But Gawker, for all its strengths, has long struggled to follow the adage “pick on somebody your own size”. For every “fight the power” moment against Hulk Hogan, there’s the college-aged woman begging an editor to take the revealing, stolen video down, an example of Gawker making the powerless into collateral in their assault of the powerful. Remember that horrible sex-tape joke AJ Daulerio made under-oath about underage people in sex tapes? Fight the power!

And so, regardless of the motive behind Thiel’s funding of the Hogan suit, perhaps this small media company danced around the lines of journalistic ethics long enough to produce some predictable criticism and legal issues. Live by the gawk, die by the gawk.

Maybe the best thing would be to talk it out

Denton’s suggestion to the libertarian Thiel: more speech, not less. From Thiel’s letter:

We each claim to respect independent journalism, and liberty. We each have criticisms of the other’s methods and objectives. Now you have revealed yourself, let us have an open and public debate.

The court cases will proceed as long as you fund them. And I am sure the war of headlines will continue. But, even if we put down weapons just for a brief truce, let us have a more constructive exchange.

We can hold the discussion in person with a moderator of your choosing, in front of an audience, under the auspices of the Committee to Protect Journalists, or in a written discussion on some neutral platform such as Medium. Just tell me where and when.

Sharp questioning could benefit everyone involved. Echoing Denton, learning about the extent Thiel would recommend billionaires exhaust the resources of a media company to handle a lawsuit would shine a needed light on the role our courts play in protecting a responsible and independent media. Alternatively, his answer might also examine if pumping enough money into burdensome lawsuits can, in practice, sway precedent-shaping decisions in favor of who has the most money.

Meanwhile, readers need an understanding of what Denton’s edict to make Gawker 20 percent nicer (a number he later reduced to 10-to-15 percent) actually means, and how a nebulous term like “nice” governs sound ethical reporting on controversial subjects.

Read the full letter here.

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