Gawker is changing course and re-branding as a politics site. With the new direction, there will be about seven layoffs across the company’s various sites.
In a memo to staff, recently appointed Gawker Media executive editor John Cook said namesake Gawker.com would focus on the 2016 presidential campaign under Alex Pareene, who was named editor in October.
According to Cook: “Pareene’s Gawker will focus intensely on politics, broadly considered, and the 2016 campaign. Never before has a political season promised to be so ripe for the kind of punishing satire and absurdist wit that Alex has perfected over his career — a spirit I saw in action up close when he was a Gawker blogger back in 2009, and also when he was a manager and editorial leader at First Look. The world sadly never got to see Racket, the satirical site Alex was cooking up over there, but Alex’s Gawker will take on some of that project’s character.”
Reporters Allie Jones and Sam Biddle will take to the campaign trail, and Ashley Feinberg will monitor the “dark and hilarious lunatic fringes on the right and left.”
Along with the shift from gossip and culture to politics comes layoffs, but according to the memo, Hamilton Nolton, Andy Cush and Keenan Trotter will all remain at the blog. Executive features editor Tom Scocca will return to Gawker with a twice-weekly column, Cook said, and Pareene will also have a weekly column. The site looks to add a political reporter and a deputy editor.
Reporters leaving will include Jay Hathaway, Jason Parham, Kelly Conaboy and Taylor Berman.
“The shift in focus will necessarily mean that certain kinds of stories that Gawker has trafficked in the past will go by the wayside, and we can’t reshape the site’s focus without shifting personnel,” Cook wrote, adding that at sister site Gizmodo, Katie Drummond, currently a deputy editor at Bloomberg Businessweek, will join as editor in chief. At Jezebel, managing editor Erin Gloria Ryan is departing for Vocativ, as is Natasha Vargas-Cooper. Jia Tolentino will become deputy editor, and Kate Dries will be managing editor.
Broader changes taking place at the company include folding Gawker’s The Vane, Jezebel’s Millihelen and Kitchenette, Lifehacker’s Workshop and AfterHours, Jalopnik’s Flight Club and Gizmodo’s Indefinitely Wild and Throb. Gawker’s Defamer, Morning After and Valleywag will be permanently shuttered, “clearing the path for Jezebel to become the primary voice for celebrity and pop culture coverage in the network,” Cook said.
The company will add two staff writers to Deadspin’s Adequate Man, and Jezebel will hire an editor to launch a new health, beauty and self-care vertical. In total, the company looks to list six new job postings.
The shakeup at Gawker follows a tumultuous summer, in which founder and chief executive officer Nick Denton signaled a shift in tone after the site published a controversial story about the private life of a leading media executive. Fallout from the story caused executive editor Tommy Craggs and editor in chief Max Read to quit.
Most recently, the company faced further criticism when interim editor in chief Leah Beckmann was passed over for the full-time position as editor in chief. A former Gawker editor, Dayna Evans, penned a piece on Medium over the weekend, citing gender bias at Denton’s company. Evans pointed to Beckmann’s departure, among other things, and wrote: “To say that Gawker treats men and women equally is simply untrue.”