Today is John Cook's last day as the editor-in-chief of Gawker.com.
John is leaving us for The Intercept, a Bob Avakian-funded radical pamphlet that he will be passing out at Union Square every day between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. We will miss him, but he leaves us with a wonderful, profane legacy.
What were the best John Cook posts?
Staff writer Rich Juzwiak points out, correctly, that "John Cook essentially gave the world the comedy genius of Rob Ford. That's the nicest present anybody ever gave anybody." Actual Canadian Michelle Dean agrees: "I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when this post was published because I'm Canadian and I once lived in Toronto and I would not trade the way this story broke for anything in the world."
DailyKos blogger and former colleague Alex Pareene tells us his favorite John Cook post is "Katie Couric's Forbidden Dance of Gin." His other favorite John Cook moment was "when he quit" and also "when Jeffrey Goldberg accused him of being abusive to his wife but that wasn't Gawker-related."
From the West Coast, Defamer editor Lacey Donohue writes, "my favorite John Cook moment from my time here is this:
"my favorite John Cook piece off the top of my head," she continues, "written before I ever imagined I'd be so lucky to know you guys and work here, is this."
"Confessions of a Teenage Word Bully," senior writer Hamilton Nolan agrees, "is the bravest [post] that John has ever written—braver than his investigative journalism work or his rants based upon his many wrong opinions." He continues:
It is brave because it turns John Cook's harsh spotlight on John Cook himself. His ability to do this honestly and with grace is something that I will always respect. It also added to the ample online evidence that he is racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic, which I encourage his many future political enemies to explore on Google.com. John, you were actually very overqualified for Gawker. Sucks for you but good for us.
Staff writer J.K. Trotter singled out "The De-Watergating of American Journalism" and "Robert Bork Was a Terrible Human Being and No One Should Grieve His Passing" as his two favorite John Cook moments. Asked to elaborate on his choices, he writes: "I love John Cook."
Former managing editor Leah Beckmann suggests publishing the email John Cook sent to staff when she left last year. She describes it as "the most beautiful piece of literature anyone has ever written," which is perhaps overstating it. The email is nonetheless extremely touching, as John's goodbye emails all are.
When I originally emailed to ask about John Cook favorites, staff writer Taylor Berman called "dibs" on John's opus "That U.S. Olympic Rower's Cock Is Not Giant: A Photoanalysis." He later told me he was "surprised" that "the fans" didn't complain when his choice was briefly and mistakenly excised from this post.
Valleywag editor Sam Biddle shares an anecdote:
Here's my John Cook story. The staff of Gawker.com went out one night to sing karaoke and get very drunk. John drank the most and sang the most, and by the end of the evening he was having a hard time standing straight. So I guess he thought pizza would help him stand straight, because he took out a wad of cash (mostly singles in bad shape) and stuffed them in my shirt pocket. He said something like "Go get me a slice" and pointed out into darkness. There wasn't any pizza so I just ate a gyro by myself somewhere and then gave him back the cash, which he took, and I don't think he even remembered asking me about the pizza. John is the best boss I've ever had.
In that same vein: Staff writer Caity Weaver emailed a list of her favorite John Cook burns on Sam Biddle.
John C. that guy's way better at playing ping pong with his dick than sam is at playing basketball with his arms and body
John C. sam you're in vampire weekend right?
John C. sam i think this [party] is just for the gawker staff
John C. i'd rather listen to drake than talk to sam at dinner
John C. sam read all of gawker in one day
John C. sam read war and peace with it this weekend and write it up
John C. sam what is more important than my party
John C. SAM
John C. fuck you sam
John C. fuck off sam
John C. FUCK OFF SAM
John C. sam you're awful proud of your not-fully-thought-out halfname
John C. tuck in your shirt you're representing the site sam
John C. Sam Judas
John C. thanks sam!
Sam B. any time
"I will miss John most of all," Caity concludes. With John's departure, Caity ascends to the status of Gawker's chief mean girl.
Valleywag editor Nitasha Tiku writes in:
After a season-length evisceration of the notion that Girls was a show for us, by us, John Cook turned down the Skrillex and offered up the most patient and gentle dialectic on why the show can be so grating. ("These people are meant to be loved, to be understood and explained. It's a celebration, not a satire.") This is the same kind of care and schooling that John offers his writers. Except when he decides to mock you for living in a tiny studio in the middle of an office party.
Features editor Tom Scocca saluted his fellow shitheart in an email:
For a long time, working as an editor at Deadspin, I was not really sure who "John Cook" was. Gawker Media operates in an open-plan office, which is in theory supposed to bring disparate colleagues together, but in practice encourages one to be as unaware of other people as one can, as in a subway car. Somewhere across the big dim room, there was an indeterminate number of medium-sized, sort of gingery white guys who wrote cranky things, sometimes about the media, and occasionally commandeered the office sound system to play somewhat-to-very-annoying music. John Cook, I vaguely understood, was to some extent part of this. Then he wrote an item making fun of Esquire's Chris Jones.
Making fun of Chris Jones was a hobby of mine. Jones was a particular kind of self-righteous and blindered dipshit—a smarmy one, to be exact, professor of an open-ended public seminar on How to Be a Righteous He-Man Writer. He was hilariously incapable of reflection.And so Jones had written a little throwaway bit of would-be-wise machismo for Esquire in which, assuming the voice of sexual experience, he advised women that, in a world that constantly judges male bedroom performance, it would behoove them to perform better themselves.
Cook, in a feat of insightful cruelty, decided to take Jones's off-gassings at face value: not as the words of an all-knowing Esquire Man, generically addressing Woman, but the words of a particular man, addressing his particular sex partner, presumably his wife. It couldn't possibly be the case, after all, that this award-winning journalist was just bullshitting about his sexual experiences, could it?
Jones flipped out. It was a personal attack on his family! The attack, of course, consisted of nothing more than Jones' own words. But Jones was horrified to see his message to women—"don't treat our semen like it's battery acid"—directed toward his own wife, someone he apparently considered (unlike those generic women) a human being. He never did get the joke.
Jones added Cook's name to his list of "shithearts," the evil people who for some unaccountable reason chose to torment him. As a shitheart in good standing, I marked it down too.
What is my favorite John Cook story? Let me start by saying that John has built a career here at Gawker of which any editor would be proud. He has broken meaningful, change-effecting news, written moving, lasting stories, and built and mentored a staff of unbelievably talented writers.
But all that is nothing—dust in the wind—compared to the single most influential and significant thing John has done in his five years with this company. Look: Relationships decay. Stories are forgotten. News gets old. But headline constructions? Headline constructions last forever. Especially this one, which John's predecessor A.J. Daulerio assembled, while John was in a meeting, from a brief chat-room observation made in January 2012. Two-plus years later, "I Can't Stop Looking At TK" is in widespread use by both major news websites and fly-by-night viral operations. Its popularity engenders disgust from non-visionaries and haters.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you John Cook's legacy. I can't stop looking at it.
I take over Gawker Monday. See you then.