Gawker: The Return
Gawker is back. Again. The website known for blunt, gossipy coverage of celebrities, tech entrepreneurs, media figures and anyone else with an …
Gawker is back. Again.
The website known for blunt, gossipy coverage of celebrities, tech entrepreneurs, media figures and anyone else with an inflated ego went live on Wednesday, two years after a failed reboot attempt.
The editor in chief is Leah Finnegan, a former executive editor of The Outline, a news site that shut down last year. She has also worked as an editor at Gawker and The New York Times.
“The current laws of civility mean that no, it can’t be exactly what it once was,” Ms. Finnegan wrote of Gawker in a note to readers published Wednesday, “but we strive to honor the past and embrace the present.
“We are here to make you laugh, I hope, and think, and do a spit-take or furrow your brow,” she continued, asking readers to consider the site’s new incarnation “with an open mind and an open heart.”
Gawker, which became synonymous with an irreverent style that all but defined digital media in the 2000s, was started by the journalist Nick Denton in 2002. On its success Mr. Denton built Gawker Media, an online mini-empire that included sites dedicated to sports (Deadspin), tech (Gizmodo) and gaming (Kotaku).
In 2016, a judge ruled against the company in an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit that concerned the publication of a sex video and that was brought by Hulk Hogan, the former professional wrestler, whose real name is Terry Bollea. It was later revealed that the suit had been bankrolled by Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley investor who was angered by a Gawker post that reported, without his permission, that he is gay.
A collection of Gawker Media sites that did not include Gawker.com was sold to Univision in 2016 for $135 million. Mr. Denton departed, and the flagship site shut down. Bryan Goldberg, the chief executive of Bustle Digital Group, paid $1.35 million for the Gawker name at a bankruptcy auction in 2018.
Mr. Goldberg’s planned reboot of the website in 2019 came to nothing. In April, The Times’s media columnist, Ben Smith, broke the news of a second attempt at a relaunch under Bustle Digital Group, which also owns the sites Bustle and Nylon.
In her editor’s note on Wednesday, Ms. Finnegan wrote that when approached to lead the site last year, she had said, “Absolutely no way in hell.”
A second approach in January won her over. Ms. Finnegan hired a team of 12, mostly women, including four contributing writers.
“I suppose my selling points as a potential editor in chief of Gawker were that I had previously worked at Gawker and Bustle and was unemployed,” Ms. Finnegan wrote. “I was also willing to do it, which not many people can say.”
The new Gawker website opened with coverage of celebrities (“Do Justin and Hailey Bieber Hate Each Other?”), the universe (“Space: The Lamest Frontier”) and Gawker itself (“Here’s What Some People Think About Gawker Coming Back”).
Mr. Goldberg, the site’s owner, submitted himself to an email interview in a new series, “How Much Money Do You Have?” While not answering the question directly, he did have some thoughts on how Gawker’s comeback could affect his fortune.
“If there is one website that could get me sued into oblivion, then it is almost certainly Gawker,” Mr. Goldberg said. “Let’s face it — do we think that Bustle or Nylon Magazine is going to pick a petty and ill-conceived fight with a deca-billionaire? Probably not.”