Gawker to Reboot as Political News Website, Announces Layoffs

Gawker, the controversial gossip-news website, is shifting its focus to politics, according to a report Tuesday in The New York Times.

The Nick Denton-owned company will lay off multiple staffers across several of its websites as part of the shift, but is expected to add new jobs too.

Parent company Gawker Media is expected to focus on a smaller number of brands as well, which will lead to the shuttering of Defamer, a website that previously focused on the entertainment industry.

The unexpected shift of Gawker comes months after the brand came under fire for its report on a Conde Nast executive’s extramarital affair. The subsequent criticism led to internal strife, prompting the exit of two top editors.

Denton signaled that Gawker was embarking on a kindler, gentler tone than the stories that have brought the website much notoriety–not to mention unique visitors–since its launch in 2003. But no indication was given of a wholesale shift in focus to politics, a field already crowded with news operations from  establishment brands like the Washington Post to upstart Politico.

In a memo to staffers, Denton saw an opening for political coverage filtered through a Gawker sensibility. “I can appreciate the wonky contrarianism of Ezra Klein’s Vox.com and high-metabolism micronews from Ben Smith’s Buzzfeed Politics,” he wrote. “But, more than any other facet of the American system, the politico-media blob begs puncturing by some sharp Gawker wit and probing by Gawker’s inquisitive journalists.”

Gawker still faces a $100 million lawsuit filed by Hulk Hogan alleging invasion of privacy over the publication of a sex tape. The two sides are expected to meet in court next March.

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