This reporting is one of several scoops featured in this week’s edition of Confider, the newsletter pulling back the curtain on the media. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
Gawker’s revival lasted just 18 months before being put out to pasture last week by Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg, who Confider can reveal had an unofficial list of pals the site was not allowed to cover.
According to three people with knowledge of the matter, Goldberg, who was intimately involved in relaunching the famed site, made it known that Karlie Kloss and The Chainsmokers (a terrible DJ duo—don’t worry about it) were three of his friends whom Gawker writers should avoid in their coverage.
Furthermore, our sources said, Goldberg gave edicts for the site to steer clear of politics and avoid appearing “woke.”
Insiders said that things started going south at Gawker 2.0 following the May 2022 exit of chief content officer Joshua Topolsky, who had acted as a firewall between the edit and business sides of the site. Gawker’s freelance budget was subsequently slashed, effectively kneecapping the site, according to sources, and the priority turned to creating content that would attract advertisers.
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Even after Gawker’s demise, Goldberg has faces more issues, including with Bustle Digital Group’s union, which for two years has been bargaining its first contract and on Monday changed its members’ Slack avatars to the union logo and set their names to “No Layoffs, Fair Contract Now.”
The unionized staffers all posted the same message into the BDG general channel only for management to delete all their messages and disable their chat permissions.
“Around the time of launch, Bryan provided to Josh Topolsky a list of notable people with whom he or the company had significant financial ties in case it needed to be disclosed. Bryan had zero involvement in the editorial operations of Gawker,” a BDG spokesperson emailed Confider.
“Topolsky and Leah Finnegan managed all aspects of the Gawker launch, and they were in firm agreement that politics was not going to be a focus of the site. The freelance budget cost that impacted Gawker was a company-wide strategy shift and applied to all of BDG’s properties. It was not specific to Gawker.”
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