Is Gawker trolling for page views by “outing” newscasters?

Gawker.com has been in the news quite a bit of late. The Sunday New York Times recently ran an article asking "Has Gawker Jumped the Snark" which examined the sites recent turmoil including the departure of a number of senior bloggers as well as a decline in the quality in the site’s coverage of the media. Said the article about whether the site has lost its mojo:

Is it so? There are certainly signs that Gawker, delivering a daily dose of gossip and commentary about the news business and selected celebrities since 2002, is in the midst of a particularly intense period of turmoil, which has led to a slide in its once-hypnotic influence on the news media world.

Then came news that Gawker editor Nick Denton announced a new pay scale where bloggers would be paid based on the number of views at a rate of $7.50 for every 1,000 views that postsgenerate. Felix Salmon, who writes the Market Movers blog over at Portfolio.com, then asked what affect that might have on the quality of posts:

At least two things remain to be seen: whether the new pay scheme will increase the amount of salaciousness at the expense of the sites’ broader credibility, and whether the new pay scheme will adequately reward the kind of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism that Denton wants to encourage at Gawker.

We don’t yet know the answer to question number two, but judging by this post — Can We Just Call Them Gay — about which newscasters might be gay, the answer to number one might just be yes.

The post purports to criticize New York Magazine for supposedly hinting around that Fox anchor Shepherd Smith might be gay in their weekly Q&A feature. How did they hint exactly? By asking what was the last Broadway show he attended and what art is hanging above his couch. (Blogger Maggie Shnayerson fails to note these are the same questions that NYM asks each celebrity they interview for the column every week, and that they weren’t tailored for Smith in the least.)

Gawker then points out that there was also "heavy subtext" when the magazine profiled Anderson Cooper by noting "Cooper couldn’t have looked more put-together in his impeccably modernblack suit, crisp pink shirt, and perfectly knotted purple-and-bluetie."

Apparently noting that Cooper’s shirt was pink and his suit impeccable are coded euphemisms for gay. Well, Gawker is going to have none of that! They’re going to grab the journalistic bull by the horns and simply rate five newscasters – Fox’s Smith, Sean Hannity, and Bill Hemmer, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and ABC’s Sam Champion – on the Kinsey scale because they’re tired of all that pussyfooting around!

So they analyze some video of each newscaster, repeat rumors and make "subtle" innuendos about each, and then assign them a number from the Kinsey scale which, incidentally, they got backwards at first and had to fix when a reader pointed it out to them.

So is Gawker really upset at NYM for not having the same convictions as they do, or are they using these men’s sexuality as a cheap stunt to drive page views? I can’t read their minds, of course, but if you take a gander at the page views on their site today you’ll see that the post about Smith and the others has over 5,000 views, making it one of the top posts. In fact, it’s done so well for Maggie that she just trotted out another post about Smith, this time accusing The New York Observer of doing the same thing.

Gay-baiting: It’s fun and it pays! But you know what else pays? Doing actual research and old-fashioned interviews, rather than taking cheap shots and hoping that your targets drop some easy hits. Our own James Hillis worked his tail off on his Gay Newsmen: A Clearer Picture article, and earned a GLAAD Media Award nomination from his thoughtful work. But I guess that’s not what post-snark-jump Gawker is all about. 

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