Media blogging is a strange little enterprise: it trumpets the death of traditional media, yet fully depends on their continued existence. Such blogs are like the oxpecker birds that nestle in the hide of a rhinoceros, gently picking away at the behemoth while getting sustenance from it.
One of the most enduring media blogs has been Gawker, which for the better part of this decade has been chronicling the media of Manhattan with an acidic wit that rarely allows for mercy. Editors are routinely eviscerated; the work of journalists and fellow bloggers is picked apart. Insecurity and arrogance alike are dragged out into the light, to be shamed accordingly.
Recently, however, a fine flock of editors has quit, and there has been much talk of Gawker’s demise, a whisper that turned into a roar with a piece in the New York Times, as well as a similarly critical bit in n+1, which bluntly accuses the blog of having turned into a bully read less for informative opinion that the glee of Schadenfreude.
And as the Times article contends, Gawker once offered Swiftian satire on the New York media world, but, in gaining popularity well beyond the editorial offices of Midtown, has lowered standards to become little more than a clearinghouse for sleazy celebrity rumors and unfortunate Facebook pages of the rich, young and famous.
When Gawker first began, blogs were a renegade enterprise, sniping away at the edges of the media empire. They were seductive, and maybe even a little bit illict. But now, some five years later, each newspaper has a plethora of blogs, and any major event will be blogged about before a drop of ink is spilled.
These days, for a blog to continue to be relevant, it cannot merely take shots at the media: rather, it needs to offer the same quality of writing that one expects from a newspaper or magazine. The best blogs are essentially fora for the kinds of shorter pieces that might not make it into a monthly, or even a weekly, journal. They are not, as Gawker has become, a repository for YouTube videos or celebrity sightings.