Gawker’s Death, and 5 Other Stories We’re Reading This Week
Here’s what you missed while you spent all day listening to Frank Ocean’s new visual album like an addict getting a fix…
The Ringer: The Mainstreaming of #BlackLivesMatter
Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor
I’m usually not a fan of mixing politics and social media since I just expect most political conversations to turn into Molotov cocktails of narcissism, but Victor Luckerson’s article made me rethink that opinion. In 3,300 words, he takes an issue with sprawling complexity and breaks down the ways social activism, no matter how egocentric, still probably serves some good.
On one level, this works as a thoughtful exploration of how social media impacts the way people and systems behave. But there are bigger threads that Luckerson pulls on. Following the complex diffusion is complicated, but we’re starting to be able to track how a hashtag can wind its way through society and ultimately affect political policy. No matter how annoying you find fair-weather activists, that’s important.
The Awl: Wheel of Fortune
Selected by Noah Waldman, editorial intern
What begins as an essay on the minutia of trade law and cheese quickly delves into issues of cultural appropriation, brand strength, and international strong-arming.
While the naming of cheeses has been a pretty serious business in Europe—it’s illegal to call cheese “feta” or “muenster” without following strict chemical and geographical specifications, for example—those laws have been a lot more lax in America. What we call “parmesan” in the U.S. couldn’t legally be sold as such in Europe, and because of new rules introduced in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), that means many American cheese producers might have to rename their dairy products.
European trade authorities may feel that American cheese makers have been illegitimately trading off of their history and prestige, but the American producers feel like the TTIP is putting up unfair trade barriers on products they’ve been making and selling for decades.
Mother Jones: This is what’s missing from journalism right now
Selected by Nico Willson, editorial intern
This article by Mother Jones follows up on an in-depth investigative report into the state of privately run prisons, in which a reporter went four months undercover as a guard. As a result of the reporting, It was just announced that the Department of Justice would try to phase out the use of private prisons in next five years.
Mother Jones uses the article—which was extremely popular but cost $350,000 while only bringing in $5,000 in revenue—as a jumping-off point to explore the state of journalism. The business of journalism has been rocked by the digital transition; print subscriptions have dropped, and ad rates have fallen dramatically. Teams of investigative reporters were often the first to be cut from the bill. Yet Mother Jones contends that, as the reaction to the prison article suggests, it is this very kind of reporting that makes it all worthwhile.
The New Inquiry: Virulence in the Virtual
Selected by Yardain Amron, editorial intern
I feel like a lot of the excitement surrounding VR is warranted—it does feel like the immersive nature of VR really could be a needed empathy incubator for society. Take The Guardian’s powerful VR experience from a few months ago about solitary confinement.
But less talk has focused on the real dangers of the medium, like rape simulators. This essay does a great job synthesizing much of the that discourse and documents the real psychological damage it can cause people outside the screen.
The strict divide that often separates the “virtual” and “real” may not be as clean-cut as we’d like to think.
Popular Mechanics: Inside the Internet’s Unending Quest to Kill the GIF
Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor
GIFs may be more popular than ever, but as this extremely in-depth history of the GIF by Eric Limer suggests, the file type itself is on its last legs. How is that possible? Well, the GIF has been around for a long time—before even the world wide web. It’s inefficient, and bogs down webpages because of its large file sizes.
As a result, many are attempting to recreate the je ne sais quoi pleasure of the GIF into something that fits our modern internet, such as (much smaller and high-quality) video files that are muted and loop. The most important development, though, is that the GIF is becoming part of a platform—Giphy, the so-called “Netflix of GIFs”—just like everything else on the web.
(It’s GIF with a hard “g,” as in girl, by the way. I’m glad the author takes the correct stance here).
Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief
I couldn’t end this week without pouring one out for Gawker. The year Gawker launched (2003) was also the year I decided I wanted to become a writer. I penned a sexually explicit extra chapter to Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, received mild encouragement from an English teacher, and decided that this is how I would spend the rest of my life.
I quickly became obsessed with internet blogs—CollegeHumor and Gawker in particular. Newspaper writing was constrained and dry, but bloggers wrote in a way that made me want to become their friends. They inspired me to start a humor column in my high school newspaper that would get me called into the dean of students’ office a half dozen times and take internships at places like Nerve, where I wrote erotic horoscopes. In some ways, I can attribute Gawker to all the fun I’ve ever had.
Gawker.com may be dead—at least for now—but it’ll never feel dead to me. It’ll live on in all my base instincts, in the decisions I make every few months that almost get me fired. For writers of a certain age, Gawker will never die.