Coming to Gawker: Layoffs and politics

nick denton gawker
Gawker Media founder Nick Denton

The "nicer" version of Gawker will also apparently be more political.

As part of a shakeup at Gawker Media on Tuesday, the company said that its flagship site, Gawker.com, "will focus intensely on politics" -- a shift from the celebrity gossip that has characterized its coverage since it launched in 2003.

Additionally, a source at the company said that seven editorial staffers will be let go, with six new positions on the way.

The abrupt changes for the website were spelled out in a memo on Tuesday from Gawker Media founder Nick Denton.

Denton said that the changes are part of an effort to provide "clear editorial missions" to Gawker.com and the company's six other sites.

Related: Departing Gawker editor calls it a 'miserable place'

"Is there any doubt that the 2016 US presidential election campaign, a contest between reality-defying fabulists and the last representatives of two political dynasties, will provide rich new opportunities for sensation and satire?" he wrote in the memo.

Denton also mentioned two competitors in the memo, saying that political coverage needs Gawker's voice.

"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."

The heightened focus on politics fits Gawker's personnel. Alex Pareene, the site's newly minted editor-in-chief, is a longtime political writer.

Related: Gawker retreats and deletes controversial story

It's also not as though Gawker is entering uncharted territory. As Denton noted in the memo, politics "has provided the scene for some of Gawker's most recognized editorial scoops," including its expose on former Toronto mayor Rob Ford's crack use and probes into Hillary Clinton's private email address.

Denton made other announcements in the memo as well. He said the company is scrapping smaller sites like Valleywag and Defamer and abandoning plans to develop its content management system, Kinja, as an open blogging platform.

Related: Gawker CEO: Unhappy employees can take buyout

The changes cap what has been a tumultuous year for Gawker. The site was pilloried over the summer after it published an article about a married media executive's alleged involvement with a gay escort.

As the uproar over the article grew deafening, the article was taken down -- a decision that was strongly criticized by many of Gawker's writers and editors. The removal prompted Tommy Craggs, the executive editor of Gawker Media, and Max Read, the editor of Gawker.com, to resign in protest.

Denton defended the decision and said he wanted the site, which has long been defined by a snarky tone, to be "nicer."

Related: Hulk Hogan can investigate Gawker emails, judge rules

The changes come in the midst of a significant legal threat to Gawker Media

Former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea) is suing Gawker Media for $100 million over the publication of a sex video.

In a separate memo on Tuesday from Gawker Media executive editor John Cook indicated that those types of items may be found elsewhere in the Gawker network.

Jezebel, Gawker Media's women-focused site, will "become the primary voice for celebrity and pop culture coverage in the network," Cook wrote.

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