A cool sunset does more for a hot publication’s glory than all the sweaty days of its actual word-pushing. As night falls—and night always falls, honey—plenty of beloveds return and gather round to tamp down the grave. Some come to tap-dance because every media graveyard has sad ghouls.
The landscape that the early Gawker was teleported into each day afresh, always with little memory of the blog-day prior, was dominated by the stark shadows of three sunward-facing editors who were largely famous for extremely failed magazines. The 102 weekly issues of Adam Moss’s 7 Days made his reputation as the best package-man east of Aaron Spelling’s house. He took over New York magazine when Gawker was a bubbly infant. Graydon Carter, one of the three most successful founders of Spy, had already been at Vanity Fair for a decade when Gawker was founded. Spy was not Graydon’s first failed magazine, plus Graydon larded up his bio when he came to town as a broke young flimflammer, so, in the end, his and Spy’s legend both were doubly burnished. And, most gloriously, Tina Brown’s Talk had just murder-suicided, making her by far the most vibrant survivor around to be celebrated by baby Gawker—and making Talk the most fabled fallen magazine. “There is nobody more boring than the undefeated,” Tina told the Times in that first Q1 after 9/11, at the end of Talk’s two-and-a-half years. Once again, time proved Tina righter than she could ever know! “The Unsinkable Tina Brown” is a logline that has been used many times over the centuries of Tina Brown’s career, but never here on Gawker. Everyone sinks.
These were the most famous and infamous magazines of each of their micro-eras and, statistically speaking, hardly anyone alive then or today has read any of them.
They loom in absence, mismanaged hilariously or murdered by moneymen or killed by time and taste. As with our heroes, we prefer our glorious publications dead. A bolder, pre-Twitter version of myself would make a joke here about how it would have been better to die while Sassy magazine still lived and never have to see xoJane. I won’t, because now we live cowed by the fear of mean tweets. Mean tweets! How will we survive the mean tweets? The only way out is out. Do you think Tina, Adam and Graydon care about mean tweets? They don’t see even your most savagely crafted tweets, nope, and neither does the magical Jane Pratt, they are all too busy getting properly paid and/or stoking the fires of the legends of publications that are still yet to blissfully crater and/or telling the staff which car should be left at which home on Labor Day. Or perhaps making sandwiches for homeless teens all day, you just never know!
No publication should overstay its welcome and yet so many have. But not Spy, living almost endlessly with ~63 issues over a dozen years, or Talk, or 7 Days—all told, those three had the savvy to throw in the towel speedily. They live on in a particular golden (actually, rather pasty-white) paradise, seated at a long table with Cookie and The Toast, Grantland and Gigaom and George, Port?olio and Play, and certainly let us not forget Radar 1.0 and Radar 2.0. (Suck.com has its own table.) Something that burns the somethingest is something! Not since Klaus Mann’s journal Decision lasted barely a year have publications skipped so quickly into the sunset, and that’s because the “decision” of that magazine’s title was resolved entirely, in the days between the Sunday of Pearl Harbor and the following Thursday when Hitler declared war on the U.S. We should all be so lucky, shouldn’t we, Lucky? Seems entirely possible now that we’ll get our own world war too, and we can solve the simple math of n+1 so that it too can shuffle off for good, rubbed to an earnest frothing gloss by a thousand apple-polishing dissertations.
Hmm. Well. Come to think of it, this post-death beatification hasn’t really happened for Details, has it.
Anyway! All these and, yes, thousands more ad-delivery content packages too, have slipped into the refreshing dark glory of the other side. As they moulder unread in the past, recollections of their house attitudes and sentence-construction tics are held up as icons of style. Sidebar gambits become elevated into feats of heroism. Idiot editors become celebrities. Darling, what becomes a legend most quickly? Dumb style guides are surfaced and weighed as items of historical import. Tales of horrid CMS choices circulate at dinner parties as examples of bravery. Tina Brown’s hysterically unintelligible late-night emails become literal shrines. Whatever it is you love now, from the daring to the harebrained, from The Dodo to Extra Crispy to Mic to The Ringer to The Daily Beast to The Awl to Upworthy to The Guardian to The New York Times, you’ll discover that they’ll each seem far more lovely to you when they’re gone.
Now this place passes into a prolonged nostalgia. Gawker existed for far longer than anyone deserved. It stayed long enough to win. The moment will come soon enough when you need a Gawker, and you’ll be furious that you no longer have one.