Back in 2012, Gawker.com published an article about Hulk Hogan that included a clip from a sex tape that he made. Hogan sought damages and was eventually awarded $140 million. Following a few filed attempts at appeals, Gawker Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was bought at an auction by Univision for $135 million. Then Univision shut down Gawker.com.
Gawker Media ran several other websites, including Jezebel, Lifehacker, Deadspin, Gizmodo and others, many of which have better reputations than the gossip website that spawned them. The move no doubt came about because, frankly, Gawker’s name was tarnished. They had, for example, outed investor Peter Thiel as gay back in 2007, which doesn’t really fall under “journalism” so much as gossip. Outing people like that doesn’t really win you any friends.
Other sites from Gawker Media have better reputations, though they aren’t exactly the cream of the Internet. If those sites continue to generate ad revenue then they should be an okay investment for Univision, which hasn’t announced plans to close them as of yet. They also didn’t lay off the staff, and they will instead be transferred to other sites or to other parts of Univision, which is probably the best solution those staffers could have hoped for.
Was the Hulk Hogan debacle ultimately responsible for killing the site? Can that kind of mean-spirited “journalism” really sink a website? If enough people sue them then yeah, it seems like it. With the world being increasingly interconnected thanks to the Internet (and indeed, sites like Gawker), it’s gotten difficult for companies or celebrities to retain any personal privacy. Sometimes, that means somebody gets outed or has their nude photos leaked. But sometimes it works out for the good, and people band together to boycott a business with unethical work practices.