Sorry ‘Bout That, Nick!

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. alleywag-nick-douglas/

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: e-candidate-2-214343.php

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.

See also:
Where in the World is Nick Douglas?
Interview With Valleywag Nick Douglas

12 thoughts to “Sorry ‘Bout That, Nick!”

  1. Why are you apologizing? Either realize you’re journalists and it’s your job to report what people say — especially those savvy enough to know what that can mean. It’s his fault for being a total moron and you’ve done everyone a favor by outing him as being more of a headline slut than Courtney Love.

    Fuck I wish you hadn’t apologized.

  2. Hmm

    Didn’t they consider that “the finally get sued” might have actualy been ment ironicly.

    Certainly fits the ex style of vallywag.

    Any how arnt’t all bloggers headline whores as are all Journalists read complicity by Ian Banks

  3. They talked with him about the issue several times. If he wouldn’t stop doing what they didn’t want him to do after that, I don’t see how the firing is a problem. Even if that was the only reason, it would still be just.

  4. I remember when Defamer lunched. I believe Mickey Kaus put it: “Why not go all the way and call it Defendant!”

    Finally, Denton’s ethos catches up with him.

  5. Please, a blogger who isn’t a headline whore is a blogger without pageviews. And Nick Douglas was the sluttiest girl on the corner. Seriously, though, I don’t think Gawker quite understands the asset Douglas was. I mean, he WAS Valleywag. Denton blogging over there is painful and boring. I’m unsubscribing from the wag soon, even though I do enjoy most of the other Gawker sites. It just seems so ‘old media’ (for whatever that buzzword is worth) to fire Douglas over what was said on 10zen, especially considering the blog he was editting.

  6. While this internal email might be closer to the truth, even this could be heavily sanitized, so only the firer and perhaps the firee know for sure. The reason given is certainly plausible; try having that conversation spelled out in the courtroom and then have to tell the judge and the jury “I was only being sarcastic”. But who knows, that could still be an excuse and the real reason could be something else lightly touched on in the email or in the interview, or something entirely different.

  7. I fail to see the difference between Nick’s tone on Valleywag and the tone of whatever gal is scribbling Gawker these days.

    If anything, I suppose Nick erred by playing the geeky dilettante a little too well. In Denton’s eyes, he must have crossed the line from merry prankster to financial liability. Or, in the wrong circumstances (i.e., the interview with 10ZM), maybe Nick peeked his head a little too far from behind his publisher’s merkin.

  8. Well, I always thought Douglas’ style was a bit over the top, and while I wasn’t exactly partial to his public slaying of Mike Arrington, I did enjoy his sarcasm and wit. He was Valleywag’s very own Oscar Wilde minus the funny hair. He’s now been replaced by Valleywag’s James Joyce minus the genius.

  9. I think Gawker did the right thing. The Gawker brand was negatively affected by Nick’s comments. He was asked repeatedly to stop and failed to do so. That’s insubordination and deserves action.

  10. You misunderstand the Gawker red herrings. ValleyWag wasn’t pulling in the number of eyeballs expected, it was the weakest property in the Gawker stable. Which is not surprising since there are only about 50 people that know any of the names he wrote about, and only 15 of them care a fig :-)

    The memo serves as a warning to other Gawker staff to watch what they say. I would say that the memo was deliberately leaked by Nick Denton himself. He owns Gawker so the phrasing of the memo about ValleyWag’s new editor is for outside consumption, and an inside joke.

    Nick Denton is expert at manipulating all types of media, especially mini media ;-)

  11. Denton couldn’t find anyone to replace Nick, apparently. So he’s got Nick freelancing articles on a regular basis.

    Maybe Nick’s using the same trick that Wally used in Dilbert. He returned as a contractor to do the same work but for more money.

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