Twitter may have taken over the old Gawker mission of exposing the underside of media elites, but Ms. Finnegan said there’s a similar charge to be gotten from publishing “an opinion that everyone secretly shares, but no one’s saying out loud.”
She has sent her staff guidelines, under the heading “Gawker Religious Text,” which offer a pretty predictable set of targets. The category of “people we can make fun of” includes the obvious targets — celebrities, royals and politicians, The New York Times — as well as left-wing Twitter bugaboos Glenn Greenwald and Thomas Chatterton Williams.
To get a sense of Gawker’s shifts, I asked Ms. Finnegan if she would have published a list of anonymous allegations against “media men” that became public in 2017. She would have then, she said; she wouldn’t now.
The old Gawker had another source of energy, too, what the writer Vanessa Grigoriadis labeled in 2007 “the rage of the creative underclass.” Gawker spoke for a generation of anxious, hypercompetitive New York writers who had come of age at a moment when “the $200,000-a-year print-publishing job, once an attainable goal for those who had climbed near the top of the ladder in editorial departments, has all but disappeared.”
That rage found another outlet, however: the labor movement. Among the first generation of writers whose sensibilities had been formed online, that began at Gawker, too, in 2015, when its staff members voted to join the Writers Guild of America-East. The move quickly spread across the digital media industry. Six years later, it is playing out not in blog comments sections, but in a bitterly fought election pitting the screenwriters whom it traditionally served against what some of them see as radicalized digital media newcomers.
Bustle employees are in the process of joining the Writers Guild, too. Ms. Finnegan is management now, but she said she doesn’t expect her site to erupt into the kind of internal conflict that used to play out in public at the old Gawker, and that cost her her job there.
“I realized that I like having a job, and I like giving people jobs, and I don’t want to squander that,” she said. “So maybe that makes it a little less self-destructive.”