November 15th, 2006
We like Nick Douglas. A lot. He's funny, playful, unafraid to say crazy shit. So we naturally stayed as up-to-date as we could with the situation surrounding his departure from Valleywag. Little did we know the role we played in his exodus.
Today, a leaked internal email surfaced on the New York Times' Dealbook blog. It's from Gawker executive Lockhart Steele to Gawker staff, and here it is:
We let Nick Douglas go from Valleywag yesterday.
As you know, we don't make moves like this lightly, so let me explain our thinking, and the lessons from it.
Gawker sites are designed to be written from an outsider perspective. That's one reason we're game to hire writers like Nick Douglas, who came to San Francisco last January straight from college as a near-total outsider to the web scene. But anytime a writer settles in too closely with the subjects he/she's writing about, there comes the inevitable tradeoffs: favor trading, and an elevated sense of one's own importance to the field at hand. Both, to some degree, ended up being the case here.
We were also concerned by Nick's repeated misunderstanding of the purpose of our sites. Here's a quote from a recent interview with him, after we'd asked him to lay off the press interviews:
We haven't gotten a serious legal threat so far. Well, a couple of minor ones, but we're still waiting for a good solid cease-and-desist and a good lawsuit. We're really trying to get News Corp. to sue us.
They tried to stop the publication of some article [ed: originally intended for publication by someone else] calling MySpace a spam factory. And the author was revealing some of the background behind the company — that it wasn't really started by these two guys in their basement. And, since News Corp went to such lengths to stop the original publisher from publishing the article, we were hoping that if I actually published it on Valleywag, we could finally get sued. (Sighs) It didn't happen yet. I'm really disappointed about that.
We don't report stories to "finally get sued." We report stories because we think they deserve to be out there. Whatever follows from them is whatever follows from them. Sarcasm or not, it's quotes like these that could make us look really foolish — or worse — down the road.
I don't want any of these problems to be misinterpreted as one-strike-and-out situations. These are issues that we repeatedly spoke to and warned Nick about. It finally reached a break-point where changing editors was the only solution. That said, I'll miss working with Nick — he was a hellishly funny writer, and I don't doubt he'll go on from this to grander things in the Valley.
Beginning today, Valleywag's editor is someone we've worked with before — Nick Denton. Nick's been in San Francisco for the past week, and will stay out there until a new full-time Valleywag is installed. His intro post, reflecting on Valleywag past and future, is here:
Let me know if you have more questions about this — happy to discuss.
It's all a little confusing because, in his audio interview with RU Sirius, Destiny and myself, Mr. Douglas indicated that he was working on new projects, though he declined to say what they were. But since the announcement of his departure from Valleywag, we didn't really believe the speculations that he'd been fired. And never in a million years would we have thought he was, at least in part, fired because of what he said to us.
For what it's worth, consider this a public apology to Nick Douglas. But, maybe it's not something Nick regrets.
Based on the content of the above email, I'd say Gawker made a mistake. A big mistake.
What do you think? Comment here.
Update (11/30/06): Nick has been hired by the Huffington Post to do "real journalism" for it's Eat the Press section. Good luck in your relationship with the (inverted) inverted pyramid, Nick.
Where in the World is Nick Douglas?
Interview With Valleywag Nick Douglas