Gawker Media‘s head honcho, Nick Denton, gets the long form profile treatment from the New Yorker. The two fascinating tidbits from the piece are his journalism background and how he abandoned a sci-fi novel he was working on to start Gawker. I can’t fathom Denton as a science fiction writer and so the detail, albeit minute, seems like the strangest detail.
And then there’s a nifty trick from writer Ben McGrath 1/3 of the way into the piece, wherein he strings along several quotes about his subject:
From reading Gawker, I had learned that Denton is not just a terrible employer but one of “New York’s worst,” as well as an unapologetic liar and the kind of person who leaves his own party early in search of a better one. The caricature was not much diminished by speaking to people about their experiences with the man.“He’s not, like, a sociopath, but you kind of have to watch what you’re doing around him,” Ricky Van Veen, the C.E.O. of the Web site College Humor, told me.
“The villain public persona is not a hundred-per-cent true,” A. J. Daulerio, the editor-in-chief of Deadspin, Gawker Media’s sports blog, said. “It’s probably eighty-per-cent true.”
“He has fun when people say horrible things about him,” the blog guru Anil Dash said.
“I can’t lie to make him worse than he is, but he’s pretty bad,” Ian Spiegelman, a former Gawker writer, said.
“Other people’s emotions are alien to him,” Choire Sicha, another Gawker alumnus, said.
“He’s got a strong carapace of not really thinking other people’s opinions are that important,” John Gapper, a columnist at the Financial Times, said.
“He’s right,” Matt Welch, the editor of the libertarian magazine Reason, said. “He’s never right about me, of course. But people are lazy and not very good.”
“He almost sees people as Legos moving around,” Sheila McClear said.
“He’s not a fully human person,” Spiegelman said.
“I mean, maybe he thinks he’s the one truly advanced human,” Anna Holmes, the founding editor of Jezebel, a.k.a. Girlie Gawker, said.
“Does he have parents?” Daulerio asked.
“I always imagine that he came fully formed out of British finishing school,” Holmes said.
“Part of getting to know Nick is accepting that there are things you’ll never know,” Jeff Jarvis, the new-media critic and author, said.
“What can you do with a person like that?” Spiegelman said. “He’s a character out of Dr. Seuss, frankly.”
“Nick is a bit of a sphinx on purpose,” Joel Johnson, the longest-serving Gizmodo writer, said. “He has some of the attributes of the dork who wraps his Asperger’s around him like a cloak.”
“There’s no point in writing about Nick if you can’t get to the fundamental problem of his nihilism,” Moe Tkacik, who has worked at both Gawker and Jezebel, said.
“He likes pretty things,” Daulerio said.
“He takes cancer very seriously,” Sicha said.
“He wants to be Warhol,” McClear said.
“He’s always wanted to be a magazine editor,” Welch said. “He’ll deny it to his grave.”
“What he really wants is to be the editor of the New York Times,” Spiegelman said.
None of these people really dislike Denton, and some of them are quite fond of him. With old friends, particularly those outside the blogging world, he is “curiously loyal,” as Gapper says, even if he is also “ruthless, actually, in lots of ways.” Several people mentioned that they’d sought Denton’s approval before agreeing to talk about him. “Be interesting,” he invariably responded.