For the next few days or weeks or as long as I feel so inclined, I will be answering "Frequently Asked Questions" for those of you who may be new to Gawker. The first five are below. Submit new questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Are you as shallow as you appear?
Gawker is dedicated exclusively to frivolity and excess. I do, on occasion, stare into the existential abyss, ponder the nuances and shudders, and produce what some might refer to as "serious thoughts." You will never see these on Gawker.
In truth, I aim to be much more shallow, and am very demanding of myself in this respect. Every morning I look in the mirror and ask myself, "Am I vapid enough?" "How can I learn to make people care less about others, and more about me?" And most importantly, "Can I really bring myself to wear an outfit that just screams 'middle-class tax bracket?'" Sometimes I find myself not really caring which book Nicky Hilton's reading or whether she's remembering to color inside the lines, and I feel momentarily guilty. Happily, a Xanax, a martini, and a couple of lines of moderate-quality coke seem an effective remedy.
As I recently informed my publisher, I plan to learn how to be even more shallow very soon by infiltrating the Conde Nast cafeteria and conducting covert research. From a recent email to a neutral third party: "Conde double-agents have been teaching me the proper technique for effectively grinding a Manolo into the neck of an unwitting editorial assistant so that I can appropriately camouflage myself among the Vogue editors. I have spent the week spitting on poor people and scoffing at public transportation in preparation. In the course of the last month, I have also successfully expensed some $1.4 million to Si Newhouse. (No one seemed to notice. But I guess that's not terribly unusual.)"
2. Admit it: you're just a bunch of social climbers.
We're just a bunch of social climbers.
3. What do you say to those who describe you as "solipsistic assholes"? (Not that this has actually happened.)
We are, in fact, assholes, but I'd say we're no more solipsistic than the type of people who refer to us as "solipsistic assholes."
4. Why are you so down on San Francisco?
Because San Franciscans send us the most interesting hate mail. It's almost like they don't even realize we're joking!
5. What can a bunch of people from Alabama (Elizabeth), Minnesota (Jason) and the UK/Hungary (Nick) know about New York?
I think it's actually easier to write about Manhattan if you're an outsider. The absurdities, in particular, are much more apparent. The darker Manhattan-centric themesclass warfare as recreational sport; pathological status obsession; and the complete, total, and wholly unapologetic embrace of decadenceare much more fascinating to us. [Ed. noteWe can spend entire minutes thinking about them.] The ironies of life in Manhattan hit you with all the subtlety of a two-ton sledgehammer to the back of the head. You find yourself inexplicably reveling in them and obsessively writing about them.
If we had a recommended reading list, it would include Kurt Andersen and Graydon Carter's Spy Magazine circa 1988, Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, possibly a little Bret Easton Ellis, Toby Young's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, and more recently, Tina Brown's New York column. None of these people are from New York either.
But enough with the sincerity. It's making me twitch. Next question?
6. Don't you spellcheck anything?
We have what's called "collective spellcheck." It involves you, the reader, emailing me and saying, "hey, you spelled that wrong." (Editor's a bit of a misnomer. I write everything and edit nothing.)
Publications with "budgets" apparently have "copyeditors" that serve the same purpose. We were forced very early on to choose between the "copyeditor" and the "vacation bungalow in St. Bart's," and, well, you see our dilemma.
For me: flattering fan mail, entertaining hate mail, a part-time paycheck, an outlet for mischievous impulses, and Conde Nast-wide peals of laughter (or a resounding "fuck you") if I ever send a resume or query letter to Vogue.
Publisher Nick Denton explains his complex motives for starting Gawker: "Ehm...I thought it'd be a fun thing to do."
8. What's the business model?
Mostly ad sales, right now. Gawker's extremely cheap to run, because on the technical side, expenses are nominal, and on the Editorial side, you have me, and...well, me. And I'm not full-time. (If you click on Gawker during business hours and it hasn't updated in an hour or two, it's probably because I'm out hustling for freelance assignments from the two or three publications we don't routinely and compulsively mock.)
We briefly considered acquiring AOL, but how stupid would that be?
10. No one wants to hear about Tina Brown/Page Six/Craig's List, you idiots!
Yes, they do. For every email we idiots get that says "No more Tina! No more Page Six!", we're getting much more feedback indicating that people like it. If it were, in fact, true that no one wanted to hear about it, we'd probably take it off the site. (Reader abuse is never intentionally part of the program.)
On some larger existential level, we, too, find it mildly disturbing that people are actually interested in Paris Hilton's reading habits. But apparently they are. This is the culture in which we live...oooh, let's not think about it too much.
11. How come I've never heard of you?
Gawker's only been in existence since Mid-December of 2002. Prior to Gawker, I was working in finance and Nick was a technology entrepreneur. (Truth be told, Nick's still a
technology entrepreneur *cough* media investor.)
Thus the wide-eyed enthusiasm for this strange new celebrity/media culture.
If it makes you feel any better, we've probably never heard of you either.