Gawker has never been on my must-read list. Over the years, I've read about Gawker stories and sometimes followed links to read them. But mostly, it's gossip, sensationalism and rehashes of current news stories.
So I normally don't pay much attention to what that site does, since it's just not my cup of tea, just as I don't read the supermarket tabloids. But stories in Ad Age and elsewhere have been reporting that Gawker is looking to pay $200,000 for a video that purports to show the mayor Toronto smoking crack. (Shades of Marion Barry, who DC residents actually re-elected after he got out of jail.)
It brings to the fore the old checkbook journalism ethics issue -- should a journalist or a news outlet pay for news? The folks at Gawker, however, have added a new wrinkle to the sleaze factor. Following the Kickstarter crowdsourcing model, they've set up a site they call Crackstarter and they're asking readers to donate to raise the $200K they need to buy the video of the mayor.
I had forgotten that buying news isn't new to Gawker, which played a role in disseminating the Twitter pix that brought down NY Congressman Anthony Weiner (who is now, unbelievably, running for NYC Mayor and is in 2nd place in the popularity ratings in a crowded field of candidates.) Gawker's sister site Gizmodo, you'll recall, paid $5,000 to the person who found (or stole?) an iPhone prototype a couple of years ago.
Gawker is taking checkbook journalism to new lows, which is why I never look at the site. But I'll admit, I'm probably in the minority.