In a world where miscellany is this year's topicality, the Cult of the Blog has taken on a monstrous life of its own -- countless miscreants and ne'er-do-wells the world over are clack-clack-clacking unedited observations into the global lexicon while you sleep, quality control be damned.
That said, however, even in the face of the dot-com blahs and their requisite layoffs, there does exist at least one underground post of useless information your bookmark screen is begging for. Serving as a sort of Grand Central Station for the whispers and sightings of the hip and wanna-be-hip, Gawker.com has spent the last year shoveling only the highest quality of shit to a growing mass of people who need to know ... everything. Updated throughout the day, as information dictates, you would think it would take an office of millions to hold this thing down. It doesn't. It's just one guy.
In fact, a 1 a.m. tipsy preemptive interview request e-mail was answered in no less than 30 seconds.
"I don't sleep much," laughs Gawker scribe/editor/everything, Choire (pronounced Corey) Sicha. "No, we'll sleep when we're dead."
Decidedly undead is Gawker itself, having received dubious mainstream notice from such stuffy sources as Time, Entertainment Weekly, and British music mag Q, all after just one year of operation. Original editor Elizabeth Spiers recently moved on to a top-shelf gig at New York magazine, leaving the position open for Sicha, an active blogger, among other things.
"I'm actually an art dealer," he adds somewhat surreptitiously. "I'm actually a legitimate art dealer."
Launching Dec. 17, 2002, Gawker has fed into the notion that there is no such thing as knowing -- or thinking -- too much, editorializing as much as it informs and laughing all the way to the vanity bank.
"It really began as a project of Nick Denton, who is a self-made Internet millionaire and full time playboy, er, while not eating babies for Satan. He basically wanted have some fun," says Sicha. "Basically, it's really simple. I work from home, Nick supervises all of these websites now." Denton employs editors at sister websites Fleshbot.com and Gizmodo.com as well, acting as a somewhat traditional publisher. "We keep it pared down."
Pared down, but aiming up. A recent sampling of Gawker entries finds a world of overhyped social criticisms, as resonant as they are disposable.
"We're at this really weird, really fucked-up crossroads. I think magazines are really desperate, that they've really lost it and can't get over their 'magazine' ways, you know what I mean?" says Sicha. "I really am just kind of fascinated with this fucked-up place that we're at."
How fucked-up? Read on.
The NYT's Virginia Heffernan compares and contrasts Rich Girls and The Simple Life and finds the Paris Hilton show fakey. Omg! Well sure: The Simple Life is the ultimate triumph of the predator. (That's the combined Å¸ber-role of producer and editor in reality TV: they make it all happen retroactively. Shocker.) Well sure: it's clear Jaime and Ally of Rich Girls are a little more real than the blonde she-beasts of Arkansas (as evidenced in particular by Jaime's constant, freakish whining about her forthcoming mental collapse). But you're out on a pretty thin limb if you really think Jaime and Ally 'confound expectations and vigorously interact with the world.' Maybe 'confound the household staff and vigorously interact with their parents' credit cards'?"
"There's a nice pair of size 7 thigh-high Balenciaga boots for sale on eBay. The seller reports that she 'can no longer wear these boots due to an injury.' We can't help but wonder: Chloe Sevigny, famous Balenciaga-toppling tooth-loser, are things that bad?"
"In 2003, cocktails became fruitier, creamier, and more elaborate. 2004's backlash will include grain alcohol and body shots. A kind of fratboy/teen-alcoholic chic will be all the rage next year. (More date rape! More alcohol poisoning! V. v. hot.) Alex Kuczynski at the Times reviews the puking season -- Thanksgiving to New Year's -- and blames the year's obsession with sugary cocktails. She claims: 'Drinking a cocktail has become something out of an episode of Fear Factor.' And we saw this coming when the little bottles colonized every deli downtown last month: Clearly the last gasp of 2003's It Drinks are all made with pomegranate juice."
"Well, of course. Please note: this weekend trucker hats are hot between 14th Street and 32nd Street on the West Side, are laughable between Houston and Delancey on the LES, and will pass unremarked upon on Avenue B. Make sure you bring a change of headgear if you're bar-hopping inter-neighborhood this weekend!"
Exhausting, no? But add to that the fan-favorite feature of the Gawker Stalker -- wherein regular people report pedestrian encounters with the higher caste, producing an uncomfortable juxtaposition that is nothing short of fascinating -- and you're hooked.
"We were at Jesse Peretz's New Year's party," says one this week. "Anyways, we are wasted. It's 2 a.m. I have already done way too much of everything, babbling incoherently. Anyway: Some girl comes up to us and says that she needs to get her coat and I look at her and say, 'DON'T I KNOW YOU FROM SOMEWHERE?' like 8 times. 'WHERE are you from!?' By the last time I screamed this one last time and she ran away, I realized it was Claire Danes. Me = stupid drunk idiot."
Consisting largely of links to already published sources, or some of the more engaging blogs, Gawker nonetheless leans on some of the standard premises of journalism. Reporting, after all, is little more than shuffling information.
"We actually do reporting. The stuff that I really want usually requires some digging. We do have some regular sources, like people at Condé Nast and the people at Hearst. But the stuff we really want, we have to work for like everybody else. It isn't all just waiting for e-mails," says Sicha. "The nice thing is that as soon as I publish something, I get feedback on it in like two minutes. So, either I get more information confirming how right we are that I can supplement, or I can find out what the real story is. So that's actually good."
"We're trying to stay under the media radar right now," he adds. "We always want to stay outside."
And as the Jayson Blairs and Paris Hiltons of the world trickle down the celebrity drain, Gawker keeps its firm grip on all things entertaining by panning more broadly into the carnivorous secret world of New York business.
"The best stories are the stupid stories," says Sicha. "The best was when, like, animal parts were found at Condé Nast. It was an amazing story in the fact that you've never seen any company crack down on anything so much in your life! They just wiped that story off the radar."
"The sushi memo was a great story too. There was this law firm in New York that had some poor paralegal write up a legal memo on where to find sushi in the neighborhood. It was one of those stupid little New York stories that are like perfect New York genius bits. It was just so surreal."
"Our focus is ..." he thinks out loud, "Our focus is on the shallowness.
"The question is now, especially here, is, 'What is 2004 going to be like?' It almost feels like now it's this whole bloated economic recession era of trash and pleasure without repent."
But does he feel guilty? Well, no.
"It's a commodity. I didn't make you get rich!" he scoffs. "I think there's lots of reasons to be mean to people."
Only when it's funny, though.
"When I feel really world-weary, I stay away from the keyboard," Sicha says. "I don't need to drag the whole world down with me."