Gawker.com: Journalism or Pornography?

So Jimmy Kimmel was guest-hosting Larry King Live tonight — one of the best episodes I’ve actually seen in years, Kimmel did a great job — and he was moderating a robust discussion about aggressive paparazzi, featuring Mark Geragos, two paparazzi, a publicist and Emily Gould, editor of Gawker.com. Read the transcript excerpt I’ve appended, and render your own judgment at her words:

GOULD: There’s a whole other aspect of our website that doesn’t have anything to do with the Stalker Map. But what the Stalker Map is [is] citizen journalism. People don’t read with the expectation that every word of it will be gospel. Everyone who reads it knows that it isn’t checked at all. [emphasis added]


KIMMEL: Well…

GOULD: What they read it for is immediacy.

KIMMEL: I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

GOULD: You don’t unfilter sort of the way people that perceive celebrities in real time that you don’t get from any other media. And that’s what I think is great about it.

KIMMEL: Well, I mean you also get what is essentially slanderous statements or libelous statements put on your website. For instance, today I noticed there was something about Kevin Costner. I went on to see what was there today. It said how fat Kevin Costner was and it had a picture of Jabba the Hutt next to him. Now, I know you sell advertising. I don’t know why anybody would buy advertising on a website. But I don’t know what the point of something like that is.

BRAGMAN: There’s also a big contradiction. She said citizen journalism. She used the word “journalism” and then said, “Everybody knows not everything is true.” Most journalists at least try for the truth. It’s a goal.

GOULD: I mean do you read “US Weekly” and expect that everything in it is true or “Star.”

(CROSSTALK)

BRAGMAN: I expect that they try. I get calls from them fact checking and I don’t from your website.

GERAGOS: That’s absolutely true. “US Weekly” at least has a legal department that vets things.

KIMMEL: And our photographers at least are taking photographs of things that are happening, as opposed to — I mean I’d just want you to think about your life and…

GOULD: Wow!

KIMMEL: …weigh your options. And I mean because I would hate to see you arriving in hell and somebody sending a text message saying, “Guess who’s here?” You know what I’m saying?

GOULD: Honestly, I think that there’s a shifting definition of what is public and what is private space for everyone not just celebrities. The Internet, blogs, MySpace, no one has the reasonable expectation of being able to walk around the street and not being noticed by someone.

My opinion: If there’s no fact-checking, it’s not journalism. It’s rumor. Rumor is not journalism. Rumor is rumor. So she shouldn’t call it citizen-journalism. Hell, I live in Los Angeles. I know how sometimes you think you see somebody, but maybe it’s not them. Once, I ran into Rick Fox. Not too many people look like Rick Fox, so I think I could say, “Hell, that’s Rick Fox.” But once I also ran into Heather Locklear — or so I thought. Do you know how many Heather Locklear lookalikes there are in Los Angeles? Do you think it’s more, or less, than a few?

Either way, would I feel comfortable, as a journalist, publishing random, unconfirmed tips about the whereabouts of people, without first obtaining credible, independent verification? Guess that’s not how Emily Gould rolls.

Gawker prints titillating information, true or untrue, to get readers eyeballs’ and drive up advertising revenue. Big shocker, whatever. Just don’t call it journalism. Hell, I plead guilty to reading Gawker, maybe once a month. But I’m under no illusions as to why I go there. You don’t offer the pretty girl a drink to learn more about her summer in Provence. And you don’t go to Gawker for anything other than a helping of trash, which may or may not be true. They’re pornographers in a sense, really.

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~ by Hi-Lo Tone on April 6, 2007.

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