The problems of prominent New Yorkers at Christmas
By Vanessa Grigoriadis
New York Magazine
At the risk of sounding like a wounded old-media journalist, let me share a story about my experience with the media-gossip blog Gawker.com, which I, like most journalists who cover stylish topics in New York, have read almost every day for five years. In addition to recently finding attacks on some of my female journalist friends — one of whom was described as slutty and “increasingly sundamaged”; another variously called a “tardblogger,” “specialblogger,” and “developmentallydisabledblogger” — as well as a friend’s peppy little sister, who was put down for wanting to write a “self-actualizing screenplay or book proposal or whatever,” I woke up the day after my wedding to find that Gawker had written about me. “The prize,” said the Website, “for the most annoying romance in this week’s [New York Times] ‘Vows’ [column] goes to the following couple,” and I’ll bet you can guess which newly merged partnership that was. It seems that our last names, composed of too many syllables, as well as my alma mater, Wesleyan; the place we fell in love, Burning Man; our mothers’ occupations as artists; and my husband’s employer, David LaChapelle — in short, the quirky graphed points of my life — added up to an unredeemably idiotic persona (the lesson here, at the least, is that talking to the Times’ “Vows” column is a dangerous act of amour propre). Gawker’s commenters, the unpaid vigilantes who are taking an increasingly prominent role in the site, heaved insults my way:
“Grigoriadis writes for New York Magazine. Her last article was entitled, ‘You Too Can Be a Celebrity Journalist!’ With that kind of work and the newfound fame that comes with a Times wedding announcement, she’s on the fast track to teaching a class at The Learning Annex.”
“Sorry, but I’m obsessed with these two. The last names alone? They have nine vowels between them. And can’t you see it when they have their painful hyphenated named children? Does anyone out there know them? Please offer up some stories. Perhaps their trip to Nepal, or her internship with Cindy Sherman. I need more...”
“Those two are such easy targets they have to be made up. C’mon, Wesleyan? LaChapelle? The immigrant artist parents? No two people could be that painful.”
“Immigrant artist parents = house painters.”
Are we ridiculous? Perhaps a little, and I was contemplating this, nervously, when I got a call from my new mother-in-law, who had received the news by way of a Google alert on her son’s name. She was mortified, and I = pissed: High-minded citizen journalism, it seems, can also involve insulting people’s ethnic backgrounds. I felt terrible about dragging my family into the foul, bloggy sewer of Gawker, one I have increasingly accepted as a normal part of participating in city media. A blog that is read by the vast majority of your colleagues, particularly younger ones, is as powerful a weapon as exists in the working world; that most of the blog is unintelligible except to a certain media class and other types of New York bitches does not diminish its impact on that group.
Like most journalists, I tend to have a defeatist attitude about Gawker, dismissing it as the Mystery Science Theater 3000 of journalism, or accepting its vague put-downs under the principle that any press is good press. After all, there aren’t lots of other news outlets that cover the minutiae of our lives, and we’re all happy for any smidge of attention and desperate for its pickups of our stories, which are increasingly essential to getting our work read. The prospect and high probability of revenge makes one think twice about retaliation. Plus, only pansies get upset about Gawker, and no real journalist considers himself a pansy. But there is a cost to this way of thinking, a cost that can be as high as getting mocked on your wedding day.