Dear Gawker Ombudsman,
I applaud the addition of bylines to your site. As someone who believes in accountability in all things, it's nice to finally know who's responsible for what. But it seems that some items don't carry a name. Who, for instance, is responsible for the video clips you post? I think we should be told.
Also, is Choire Sicha really as hot as he appears to be on "Red Eye"?
Someone Way Too Concerned With The Idiot Minutiae Of A Media/Gossip Website
You raise an interesting question. I was also quite delighted with the addition of bylines last week, but I couldn't help noticing, as the week wore on, that certain posts were shorn of their writer's credit. I spoke with a Gawker editor, Alex Balk.
"That's the dumbest-assed question yet," he replied via e-mail. "Who gives a shit who pastes up the videos? Go back to the original announcement; it states pretty clearly that not every little thing needs a name. To answer your question about the clips, we generally assign them to editors who have a specific interest in their subjects. For example, Emily is all into feminism and shit, so she gets to do all the "View" stuff. I suck at cunnilingus, so I get anything with Dave Zinczenko in it. We're not sure how the Christ-fucking bowling clips keep getting posted, but somehow they do. In any event, there's no hard and fast rule: We have to meet a capricious and arbitrary quota of posts before our evil British overseer unchains us from our work stations and lets us go home, so whoever can grab the thing first is more than happy to take it."
Balk himself is no fan of the bylines. "I sort of feel like they compromise the site's authority. I mean, if this giant monolith that is Gawker says that something sucks, it carries a certain amount of weight. Who gives a fuck if Balk thinks James Brady is a senile name-dropper? But you know Choire. 'Blah blah blah, look at me, I'm so accountable, I still think I'm working for a real news organization.'"
Your ombudsman sides with Mr. Sicha in this case. While the royal "we" does have its uses, it's a much more responsible world when writers are forced to place their name next to the poorly-sourced, often incorrect, material they compose. Even that nice Ms. Sklar thinks so, and she's never wrong!
As for the unsigned posts, I can also see a case for them. It does seem somehow overboard to put a byline next to a simple screencap or one-liner. Regular readers of the site will eventually develop a sense for who writes what. Let's use Mr. Balk as an example; his posts generally include some sort of gratuitous profanity (in fact, when I first contacted him about this topic, he made a suggestion involving sex and travel) or anti-Semitic remark. It's little cues like that which will allow you to know, if you must, who has written what.
To answer your second question, I must sadly report that Choire Sicha is not in fact as attractive as he seems to be when appearing alongside the other panelists, such as Julia Allison, that they've pulled off the street to fill the chairs on "Red Eye." Fox News has apparently installed some sort of filter to make Greg Gutfeld look presentable enough that viewers won't switch over to infomercials or the re-run of Anderson Cooper on CNN, and the effect also works on his guests.
An article in today's New York Times posits the bizarre suggestion that the Gawker ombudsman is not an actual person, and is, in fact, a creation of Gawker editor Alex Balk. I'm not quite sure where to start with this, but the idea that someone whose first name and nickname incorporate the given names of the Times' own first two public editors seems to have made that paper overly suspicious. In any event, I hereby affirm my reality. Now I've got to go finish reading my Baudrillard; we'll return to the vexing issue of who writes what in a later column.
Byron "Dan" Worthington III is Gawker's ombudsman and a noted crank with a lot of free time on his hands. He will write a sporadic column responding to the reader complaints that the editors usually send right to the trash file. This is his first (or, to be accurate, second) column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use the word "Ombudsman" in the subject line or the e-mail will probably be deleted by anxious editors before he can read it.