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Keith Gessen Killed Gawker

Posted by Joshua Glenn  December 6, 2007 02:25 PM

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Or did he?

Readers of Gawker, the snarky and mega-popular New York media gossip blog, were no doubt confused by the manner in which the attention-seeking, sometimes very amusing writer-editor Emily Gould announced that she and top editor Choire Sicha were quitting.

30_choireandgould_lg.jpg
Sicha, left, and Gould

Last Friday afternoon, Gould posted a long Gawker item titled "A Long, Dark Early Evening of the Soul with Keith Gessen." In it, she recounted that she and Sicha -- both of whom love to mock the New York-based intellectual and literary journal n+1, one of whose editors is Gessen -- had just spent an afternoon helping to unload boxes of n+1's Winter 2008 issue at the journal's office. (Full disclosure: I've contributed to n+1.) Gould and Sicha's presence there can only be described as performance art, since this particular issue boasts n+1's long-awaited critique of Gawker.

The essay in question, by Carla Blumenkranz, claims that Gawker -- though once amusing, perhaps even helpful as a corrective to the impermeable, glitzy culture of New York media -- has "outlived the conditions for its existence." Because since its founding in 2002, according to Blumenkranz, "as media players the Gawker editors had become more powerful than many of their targets." Furthermore:

Gawker retained the stance of a scrappy start-up and an attitude of populist resentment toward celebrities and insiders, even as it became the flagship publication of an online media empire. The status of Gawker rose as the overall status of its subjects declined, and it was this that made Gawker appear at times a reprehensible bully.

In her Gawker post, Gould is as catty as ever about the journal -- ridiculing n+1 editor Ben Kunkel's shoewear, for example, and describing Gessen's voice as "muppety." However, after seizing the opportunity to read Blumenkranz's essay, with whose most salient points she apparently does not disagree, she drops a bombshell.

I took a phone call and when I got back, Choire had told Keith he was quitting Gawker.

"Yup, we're quitting!" I said.

"Because of this?" Keith asked.

"Sort of. Well, not because it was written. But because it's not untrue."

End of item!

So how to parse Gould's statement? If Keith imagined, for a moment, that Sicha and Gould were quitting Gawker because of n+1's critique, others must have done so, too. In a post on Tuesday, Gawker's Joshua Stein (who quit over the weekend) captured our collective confusion in a neat phrase, referring to the "historically-telescoping N+1 article about Gawker that allegedly semi-prompted the resignation of my co-worker Emily Gould."

So is n+1 a David to Gawker's Goliath? No, according to Gould and Sicha, who recently told The Huffington Post that n+1 had nothing to do with their abrupt departure. Stay tuned, though -- I don't think this story is over yet.

UPDATE: On March 6, Gawker reported, in the meanest possible way, that Gessen and Gould are now dating.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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