Thursday 8 December 2016

Gossip website Gawker to shut down after losing Hulk Hogan sex tape case

Published 18/08/2016 | 18:51

Gawker founder Nick Denton walks out of a court house in Florida (AP)
Gawker founder Nick Denton walks out of a court house in Florida (AP)

Gawker.com, the website that broke new ground with its gossipy, no-holds-barred coverage of media, culture and politics, is to shut down after 14 years.

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Founder Nick Denton reportedly told staffers on Thursday afternoon that Gawker will come to an end next week.

Spanish-language broadcaster Univision is buying the site's parent company, Gawker Media, for 135 million US dollars (£102 million), after Gawker lost a major invasion-of-privacy case brought by the former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Gawker had published a video of him having sex with a friend's wife.

A Florida court awarded Mr Hogan, whose lawsuit was secretly backed by an aggrieved Silicon Valley billionaire, 140 million dollars (£106 million) in damages.

Gawker Media went into bankruptcy protection after the verdict, and a judge has to approve the sale at a hearing on Thursday.

"The real shame is that Gawker gave Hogan a sledgehammer with which (to) pulverise it in state court," New York University journalism professor Adam Penenberg tweeted.

"If you want to ascribe blame, blame Denton."

Other Gawker Media blogs may live on. The company currently publishes seven sites in addition to Gawker.com, including the feminist-focused Jezebel, the tech site Gizmodo and the sports site Deadspin.

Univision wants those properties to help build a more youthful audience than that commanded by broadcast TV.

But Gawker's real enemy, it turns out, was not Mr Hogan so much as Peter Thiel, a PayPal founder and early investor in Facebook who a Gawker site had outed as gay in 2007.

Mr Thiel's vendetta against Gawker raised concerns about wealthy people covertly working to undermine media companies they do not like.

Gawker's snarky and frequently vulgar style was influential throughout publishing. The site became a breeding ground for journalists, some of whom went on to jobs at the sort of establishment media outposts Gawker itself frequently mocked.

"I think in a lot of ways Gawker has helped to define the voice of the internet," said Josh Benton, the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, who said he has been a daily reader "as long as there's been a Gawker".

The site was initially a breezy, insider-y chronicler of the media that made it a must-read for many in the industry.

In later years it branched out into salacious stories of all kinds, but still enjoyed needling establishment figures in media and technology.

Mr Denton, an outspoken a former Financial Times journalist, for now does not plan on going to Univision. He also declared personal bankruptcy as a result of the Hogan case

AP

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