Months after Gawker Media-owned site Kotaku prophesied the death of gamers, it looks like Gawker’s own writing staff may have one foot in the grave.
Last week, Gawker’s writers voted to unionize by a vote of 80 to 27. While public relations between workers and management were calm, with Gawker owner Nick Denton supporting unionization, former Gawker Media editorial director Joel Johnson told a different story.
In a several-thousand word comment posted on Gawker itself, Johnson described the work environment as “miserable” and the company bank accounts as holding “precious little money,” and said that it would be “hard” for the company to even survive as a small, independent publisher. Even worse, he talks about how the company is trying to minimize the need for writers altogether.
If the name Joel Johnson sounds familiar, it’s because he was the man that Denton fired over the company’s botched handling of GamerGate. After GamerGate cost Gawker millions of dollars, Johnson was the first to go, and at least one other editor (Sam Biddle) was demoted as well. As you can see from his writing, Johnson still holds a grudge about it, too.
Why Unionize Now?
But why would Gawker writers want to unionize? Because Denton is looking to get rid of them. Johnson says Denton has spent millions of dollars over the last several years on a new kind of microblogging platform called Kinja. According to Johnson, Kinja’s motto is that “commenters are just as important as writers.” Under the Kinja model, commenters and microbloggers will provide the majority of the site’s value, with writers functioning mostly as “cocktail party hosts,” introducing topics for discussion and making sure the guests don’t get too unruly.
In theory, a “writer” for a site like Gawker is a skilled worker who spends a lot of time writing and polishing a piece, doing research, talking with sources, and other things that take a lot of talent and time. They need to be paid, they need to be given benefits, and they need an office and a place to work. They are expensive.
A “cocktail party host,” on the other hand, works from home for part-time pay and needs no benefits whatsoever. They can be fired and replaced at a whim. They are cheap, disposable, and mostly interchangeable. And a commenter or microblogger? Commenters cost a company nothing whatsoever. Every page view they generate is pure profit for the site.
And if one of them says something dumb on Twitter that causes another round of outrage? If anyone even thinks to blame Gawker, just ban their account and call it a day. No muss, no fuss, no angry advertisers, and no millions of dollars lost.
What does this mean for GamerGate? Gawker’s writers are unionizing because they’re vulnerable. In their announcement, they say that they’re unionizing because “Gawker is wonderful, but unions are super-important!” and “If we start a union, maybe other people will, too!” This is silly, and anyone who believes it should be embarrassed. Gawker’s been around from the time of the first Bush administration, and it’s been as far-left as you can get since the very start. So why is it that they’re unionizing now, as opposed to six or seven years ago? It’s because they’re feeling the heat.
So every time you see a Gawker writer talking about how sexist men are, or the wonders of homosexuality, or any other useless, SJW subject, smile to yourself. Every time a Kotaku author talks about how we need to replace Mario with a transsexual drag queen, laugh. In a year or two he’ll be out of a job, replaced by part-timers working from home for $2 a post. (And since the unemployment rate for journalism writers is sky-high, there’ll be a lot of Ramen and food bank visits in his future.) In fact, I’m going to make that bold prediction now: by the middle of 2017, Gawker’s writing staff will be less than 20% the size of what it is now.
And if one really pisses you off, just keep writing Gawker’s advertisers. If another one of these neon-haired gender-freaks starts costing Denton millions of dollars, no union in the world will save them.