Who Do You Love

Who Do You Love
Witches’ Sabbath, 1650 Illustration:Getty Images

The first time I was offered another job while working at Jezebel, I cried. This is not a sympathetic story to tell in public. It was a decent job offer, in an industry where those are thin on the ground. My response—I was aware of this at the time, and I’m aware of it now—should have been either to take the job, or else use it as a bargaining chip for more money. Instead, for whatever strange stew of reasons that were burbling inside my often mysterious-to-me psyche, I ended up sniffling about it in front of Emma Carmichael, my then-editor, before full-on crying into an overpriced doughnut about it in front of Jia Tolentino, who’d been sent to take me for a snack and to figure out, I think, what the hell was going on with me.

The experience was mortifying on a number of levels. I can only pray Emma and Jia have both forgotten all about it. Obviously, I stayed.

The last time I was offered a job while working here went somewhat differently, and today is my last day at Gawker Media/Gizmodo Media/Fusion Media Group/G/O Media/whatever other name change we may have experienced in the last 20 minutes. This job has meant the entire world to me: it consumed my days, it allowed me to translate world events and things I experienced in my personal life into words and reporting, it gave me something like a “public profile,” and it gave me a place to think out loud, for good or ill. I got to write about courageous rape survivors, ghost pregnancies, the anti-vaccine movement, conspiracy cruises, and, repeatedly, gutless, shameless predatory men weasling back into the public view. I also got to write about a regrettably imaginary but nonetheless very good bear named Ron. I got to fuck up in public and learn from it. I got to write a book on the basis of work I did here. I was briefly and ineffectually sued. I worked with the smartest, funniest people and best writers, people who absolutely terrified me. I loved it, maybe too much.

I have thought about that a lot recently. Truly loving a job—identifying with it, feeling like you must have some kind of kinship or ethos that unites you and your coworkers and maybe sometimes even the people in charge—isn’t the smartest idea. It’s a seductive one, though, and no matter how hard I try, it’s been difficult to steer away from it entirely. I’ve always been aware that leadership, particularly, is subject to change, shall we say. But while I wasn’t Nick Denton’s bosom buddy, I understood what the Gawker founder loved, I think. (He liked being provocative, running blogs everyone talked about, and doing things he felt other sites were too scared to do.) But maybe the true power is in not loving anything very much at all.

When we decided to unionize in 2015, it was at an arguably high point for Gawker Media, when things were relatively stable in a lot of respects, when most of us, more or less, liked our jobs and the people in charge. We did that on the basis of understanding that leadership would shift and that collective power the only force we really could count on. We were right, and sooner than we thought. Luckily, though, our unionization set off a chain reaction in digital media: dozens of outlets joined soon WGA East along with us or unionized with the News Guild or are working now as freelancers to organize themselves through the IWW. They deserve our support and they are the reason you’re able to read anything on the internet at all that hasn’t been wrung through some boss-machinery so thoroughly and joylessly it’s been bled of anything resembling truth or meaning.

I’ve been grateful for that choice to unionize many times before, and I’m particularly glad for it now, when the new men running our company pose a bit of a mystery for me. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what they love. (Univision was a bit simpler: they liked being seen as a big global news company, yet were simply too incompetent to do it right.)

In that way, they’re stronger than us. If you don’t love something, you can’t feel a deep emotional investment in it. You can do anything at all. You can chop something up and rearrange it however suits your current whim. You’re not answerable to anybody: not bad headlines or mean tweets or your own incredulous staff. Certainly not to me: I gave up some time ago on finding out precisely what the new guys love, or what they read, or what their ideal internet news websites look like. When I emailed our new executive editor to give my notice, I did not hear back.

But I still feel, and will always feel, the most immense gratitude for this place. Jezebel was my home in the world, and Julianne Escobedo Shepherd and the writers here work constantly to make it a place where everyone reading these words finds something to make them think or laugh or nod in agreement or grind their teeth. I took tremendous joy in being part of something I loved, and pissing off (mostly) the right people. The current and former Jez staffers are part of the rickety series of levers and pullies and Scotch tape that holds me together. They give me wise advice and completely undeserved amounts of support and praise and the best media gossip in the world. If it weren’t for certain dark corners of the Internet and a collection of awful bars where I can usually find them, I would sincerely be lost. (That said, I’m sorry for leaving every party after 20 minutes due to misanthrope reasons, and had I known you all watched me slip out every single time—to the point where it became a running gag—I would’ve stayed longer, or maybe said goodbye.)

Jezebel and the Gawker Media sites will always be worth visiting no matter which faceless bunch of Dockers-clad pod people are in charge. And whether I like it or not, where I know what to do with it or not, I’ll take love for this place with me wherever I go.

Thank you all for everything.

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