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Gawker reboots as political site, lays off employees

By Megan Hamilton     Nov 19, 2015 in Politics
It's been a bumpy year for Gawker Media, but now the company is in for a really big change.
Already known for its knife-edged wit, Gawker plans to set its sights on politics, especially the 2016 race for the White House.
Gawker founder Nick Denton and executive editor John Cook revealed plans in internal memos released today to tighten the focus on Gawker Media's main verticals, and that includes Gawker.com and Gizmodo, Wired reports. A few sub-sites will get the axe, however. Several employees will also be laid off.
Denton wrote that the site "will ride the circus of the 2016 campaign cycle, seizing the opportunity to reorient its editorial scope on political news, commentary and satire," The New York Times reported.
"Is there any doubt," Denton wrote, "that the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, a contest between reality-defying fabulists and the last representatives of two exhausted political dynasties will provide rich new opportunities for sensation and satire?"
Gawker editor Alex Pareene told the Times he wants to define politics in a broader scope, widening it to even include coverage of big business, and when appropriate, the media and culture.
But campaign coverage is definitely going to be a big deal, "because this campaign is great and a dream for any writer. But we're not going to become Real Clear Politics," he said, in reference to a political news site.
Instead, he wants political coverage with a satirical approach a la John Oliver, whose HBO show combines reporting, news aggregation, and humor.
Pareene said the site will be hiring editors, and at least one political reporter.
Politico notes reporters Allie Jones and Sam Biddle will trek the campaign trail; while Ashley Feinberg will mine the "hilarious lunatic fringes and the right and left." Executive features editor Tom Scocca and Pareene will write regular columns.
Cook also wants to take a "Daily Show approach to covering the ever-intensifying culture wars, documenting, satirizing, and reporting on the ways that political disputes are refracted in every aspect of our popular culture," he wrote. He noted Gawker's biggest stories have always had a political bent. One example? Toronto's crack cocaine-smoking mayor Rob Ford. Stories on Josh Duggar's "rank hypocrisy" and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes' "paranoia" also did well.
In his memo, Cook noted several sub-sites will be shuttered, including The Vane, Jezebel's Millihelen and Kitchenette, Lifehacker's Workshop and AfterHours, Gizmodo's Indefinitely Wild and Throb, and Jalopnik's Flight Club, Mediaite reports. Defamer, Morning After, and Valleywag will also be shut down, and Jezebel will "become the primary voice for celebrity and pop culture coverage in the network."
Wired notes the company is laying off seven staff members, but down the road it plans to create six new jobs where they are needed.
Things got rather bumpy for Gawker this summer when its executive editor and Gawker.com's editor-in-chief departed after Denton's decision to pull a controversial story. The company is also engaged in a pricey legal battle with Hulk Hogan. A trial is set for next year.
In his memo, Cook also said it is time to tighten the wallet and "make sure that we're strategic and focused in how we deploy our resources."
The New York Times reports that in September, Gawker Media drew more than 50 million unique users in the U.S., comScore notes. Globally the company drew more than 100 million people, per Quantcast.
While Gawker.com is the company's flagship site, technology-infused Gizmodo and Lifehacker are its most popular sites.
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