Its Kinja commenting platform is the future of Gawker, but also a thorn in the side of its writers

Photo by Undrey/Shutterstock

Gawker founder Nick Denton has repeatedly said the future of his media empire rests in large part on Kinja — the groundbreaking commenting platform launched in 2012 — because it bridges the traditional media divide and allows writers to engage more directly with readers, and with each other. On Monday, some of the staffers at Gawker-owned Jezebel did a lot of engaging, but it was about their dissatisfaction with Kinja and with the management of their own company.

According to the post, entitled “We Have a Rape Gif Problem and Gawker Media Won’t Do Anything About It,” one or more commenters on the site have been repeatedly creating so-called “burner” accounts — one-time, anonymous Kinja accounts designed for use by tipsters — and then posting images of women who have been abused in horrible ways. And there appears to be no way for editors to solve this problem apart from manually flagging and then deleting each one, since Kinja doesn’t allow for IP address blocking.

“Higher ups at Gawker are well aware of the problem with this feature of Kinja… We receive multiple distressed emails from readers every time this happens, and have been forwarding them to the architects of Kinja and to higher ups on Gawker’s editorial side for months. Nothing has changed… Gawker’s leadership is prioritizing theoretical anonymous tipsters over a very real and immediate threat to the mental health of Jezebel’s staff and readers.”

Coen told the Poynter Institute that she and her staff wrote the post to “light a fire under management’s collective ass.” She added that the violent commenting issue had been an ongoing problem that senior management was well aware of, but that “finding a solution clearly hasn’t been a company priority.”

At Gawker, almost everything is public

At most regular media companies, this kind of blatant insubordination would be unthinkable, and would likely result in pink slips being mailed. But not at Gawker, where Denton has said his dream is to get rid of as much of the traditional media structure as possible and enable readers to see behind the curtain to how writers really behave and what they think about stories. Denton himself routinely uses Kinja to pick fights and respond to arguments made by his own staff.

In that spirit, Gawker Media editor-in-chief Joel Johnson — who recently talked semi-publicly about problems with Kinja, and encouraged the Jezebel staff to go public with their concerns — responded on Twitter, saying the staff were right to call him out, that he had “dropped the ball” and would try to find a solution. And he also responded in a comment on the original post, saying:

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Gawker has been growing quickly recently, not just in terms of pageviews or unique visitors but in terms of staffing levels as well: in the same staff meeting where he criticized Kinja, Johnson said that the company had an effectively unlimited budget for hiring new writers and editors, and that the number of staff at Gawker could double by the end of next year. But if the company can’t figure out how to solve some of the problems that its Jezebel writers described in their post, it could have a few more open positions before too long.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Undrey

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