Journalism Prof Torn Up Over Loss Of Gawker: ‘Courage In The Media Needed’

Ted Goodman | Reporter

A journalism professor at the University of Maine lamented the loss of Gawker in an op-ed Tuesday, asserting that it is needed now more than ever under President Donald Trump.

Professor Michael Socolow, the author of “Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics,” called the defunct website “courageous” in The Washington Post piece.

“Gawker might have been foolhardy, reckless and ultimately self-destructive, but it was also, above all, courageous,” Socolow wrote. “With the hindsight of Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency, we should all recognize that courage in the media is needed now more than ever.”

Gawker, which gained prominence online by publishing sordid tales of infidelity by politicians, celebrities and business executives, was forced to shut down a year ago after being sued into bankruptcy by Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2012 Gawker post that included a clip of Bollea engaging in sexual intercourse with another woman.

During the court battle, it became clear that Bollea’s fight against Gawker was being financed by Silicon Valley Billionaire Peter Thiel, who was the victim of Gawker’s questionable news judgement when they outed him as gay in 2007.

Bollea was awarded $140 million, and Gawker Media was sold to Univision. The site posted its final article on Aug. 22, 2016.

“Gawker began as a crusade to save journalism,” Socolow wrote. “Like its alternative predecessors, Gawker challenged the processed wire copy and objective norms of standardized news content with pieces that could be opinionated, sensationalistic, and occasionally bizarre.”

Gawker launched in 2002 as a New York City celebrity gossip blog and rose to become one of the top gossip sites on the internet. Before its collapse in 2016, the website was known for outing celebrities and corporate executives for being gay as well as for publicizing instances of infidelity.

Socolow asserts that its impact on American media is still undeniable. “It launched the careers of an excellent set of young journalists,” Socolow wrote. “And it demonstrated a rare independence from corporate pressure, celebrity handlers and political operatives.”

While he admits that the site was chalk full of bizarre posts and “narcissistic displays,” Socolow argued that Gawker also delivered real news.

“Yet for all its widespread venom, there was one politician in particular that Gawker relentlessly skewered: Donald Trump,” Socolow said. “Long before he was president, Gawker consistently attacked the man who now resides in the White House, on everything from his political positions to his verbal incoherence to his singular hairstyle.”

Socolow apparently thinks that the media’s check on the president is not enough.

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