How Can You Mend a Broken Shitheart?

From Deadspin - October 13, 2017

John Cook is ana**hole. You are almost certainly a more pleasant and sensible person than John Cook, but you would not be here if it were not for what a colossala**hole he is.

There was a time, not that long ago but unimaginably distant, when it was OK to be ana**hole. You could say you were one. You didnt need to cuddle with your friend on live Twitter video and read tweets to one another about what friends you were. You did not need to give as**t what other people thought about you. All you needed to do was to tell the truth, with courage and integrity.

No one had more courage and integrity than John Cook. No one was more willing, as a reporter and editor, to be thea**hole, to bring down the wrath of the gun nuts or the Fox News goons or the high-strung Quality Journalists on his own head. No oneliterally, no one elsewas there to run the newsroom in its darkest hour, into the darker hours still to come, fighting and losing and fighting and losing and fighting on anyway.

Tradition says that here is where I should roast him, where I should talk about his hilariously catastrophic hiring decisions, his homeownership in the very most non-embarrassing suburb for people who could definitely still live in Brooklyn if they wanted to, his dad-rock guitar-hero dreams, his dedication to quitting smoking that was almost as strong as his dedication to bumming cigarettes. John lived that traditionendlessly roasting and endlessly roastable, fearless and funny and unashamed. He left the company twice and came back twice, drawn back to the fellowship of the weird and surly and otherwise unemployable, the culture of writers who couldnt quite imagine being anywhere else, with anyone else.

Now we know what that culture got us: the contempt and condescension of other journalists as we battled for our existence, our inside jokes read aloud in court to inflame a jury of mistrustful Floridians, our honest or facetious confessions of weakness and failure compiled and passed along and signal-degraded by message-board cretins to form an endless smarmy indictment of who we are and what we did and why. It leaves us sitting and waiting to learn whether every word we ever published will be deleted, along with the ones already deleted, by whoever has the money to buy the wreckage of the years of work and care and bravery and idiocy that added up to Gawker.

Was it worth it? Day after day, an incoming message or phone call or news report would make him groan or gasp or swear, or grip his head in his hands. He would curse into his phone and listen and curse again, speed-walking away to find a quiet corner in which to handle the latest disaster, or he would slam shut his laptop and stomp off. And then he would come back to his desk. Sometimes he would still be there, in his chair, long after night had fallen.

He took the blame. He let himself be a target for the wrath and anxiety of an office under siege when no one even knew the reason why. He fired people he loved because there was not enough money to pay them, because a billionaire had maliciously bled off the companys funds on pointless legal fees attacking a true story in revenge for other true stories. The man who flew to Toronto to try to buy a crack video counseled prudence, because without prudence there was no hope any of this would survive.

Here you are. There he goes.

Lacey Donohue, former night editor of Gawker, former editor of Defamer, former managing editor of Gawker, former executive managing editor of Gawker Media, former deputy executive editor of Gawker Media, current senior editor at Hulu:

Date: Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Subject: the one where john says goodbye

To: Edit

Its a scary Friday the 13th in New York City today because Johnour Johnis leaving us. To say Im exceedingly proud of him for what hes accomplished on our behalf is an understatement; he will now leave our fold (again) and seed the wider world (again) with what we built at Gawker Media (again). The choice to leave is a no-brainer, but its also sad because we know this is a final goodbye: John cant go home again. Gawker is dead.

The steel and determination of each and every one of you kept Gawker Media alive and kicking and fighting during some very tough times, but no one felt the emotional toll more keenly than John did, and I know that none rose more gracefully to the challenges we faced, except for the night he drunkenly lost his laptop in a bar and called 911 to report the crime. He was there for us, and kept us all motivated and blogging through the storm, except when he grabbed the mic at our weekly standups and somehow managed to make what little good news we had sound funereal at best. We wouldnt be here without himand I know for damn sure we wouldnt have been able to smoke inside the office without his cheerful insistence that no one would be able to smell it by Monday.

But we are here today, and we are professionally stablethough not emotionally or financiallybecause of John. There will be no search for his replacement because he is irreplaceable. His questionable story choices, hiring decisions, and tastes in fashion and food can all be forgiven because his laugh, especially his Friday afternoon sillies laugh, was enough to lift us out of any gutter. The gutter is not just metaphorical; I know many of you have landed in actual gutters over the years, and I hope the next time you find yourselves there, you imagine Johns laugh, and get the strength to get thef**k up and get in a cab because Jesus Christ, youref**king grownups, stop acting like babies!!!

He might have been a teenage word bully, but John leaves us a grown-up hero. He gave us the strength to tell those in power to getf**ked. He gave us the strength to keep going while we gotf**ked.

John: Fuck you for going on vacation and making me shutter Gawker. Thank you for everything else. I miss you so much.


Kashmir Hill, senior reporter, Special Projects Desk:

John Cook has tried to hire me a few different times at a few different places. I usually said no with a lot of regret. We finally got to work together when Fusion merged with Gizmodo Media Group. A lot of people told me John was dead inside before I started working with him, beaten down by all the nasty things that happened to Gawker and the world in the last year or so. They were right. But even the zombie version of John is a damn good editor who ensures that stories that challenge the powers-that-be see the light of glowing screens across the internet. The newly alive-inside John that emerges from the cocoon of the next few months is definitely going to remove many terrible people from positions of power and influence. But I will remind him of this time he abandoned me should he ever try to hire me again.

Anna Merlan, senior reporter, Special Projects Desk:

Being featured in the Gawker documentary was a big moment for John. It was also a big moment for a friend of mine, who texted me this:

Congrats to John, and apologies to my friend, who I did not text back. Later that day, she decided she had been mistaken.

Victor Jeffreys II:

The ONE time John smiled!

Ryan Brown, senior vice president, business development, GMG:

Veronica de Souza, head of audience and social, GMG:

My first day at Gawker was March 7, 2016, so most of my conversations with John have consisted of him delivering extremely bad news to me. This is his third goodbye post and most of the burns have been delivered by people way funnier than me. What I can offer is this list of questions John Cook has asked me in the past 1.5 years. Please enjoy:

Bye, John! Note that you are still expected to show up to Bring Your Kids To Work Day with all three Cook boys.

UPDATE: After I sent this, he asked me for the @WHPublicPool Twitter password for the fourth time.

Alex Pareene, former editor in chief of Gawker, current politics editor of Splinter:

If journalism schools were actually designed to teach people how to be good journalists, the dummies who attend them would be taught by people like John Cook, and not by the Ethics-Humpers and Graybeard Futurists who seem to populate most of them currently. John could certainly give students a better sense of how to reportand, a much more important lesson, what to report on, and whythan most of them seem to currently be getting.

But the real reason some journalism school should probably hire John is that he is going to need the work. At this point hes far too broken and difficult to work in any normal, 2017-era newsroom. Eventually, hes going to need something steadyhes got six rambunctious sons and a mortgage, hes gotten too used to being overpaid, and his poor wife also works in digital media.

He needs academia, becauseI cannot stress this enoughJohn is otherwise unemployable. All of his skills are just litigation risks now. Vox Media is not going to hire him to develop VR Experiences or something. He cant even upload photos from his phone without help. Hes going to end up wearing tweed and yelling at 20-somethings for not listening to the correct sort of guitar music anyway, so you might as well make it his job.

Emma Carmichael, former editor in chief of Jezebel, current dog walker:

Heres a really dark video John sent me of the office scene the moment we all found out about the Hogan judgment. I was alone at a family resort in Puerto Rico after testifying and sent back a selfie of me with a tequila shot and the caption Cheers from hell. Id like to welcome him to the unemployment ranks with the same touching note.

My pupils are dilated and Im on my phone so sorry if there are typos!!

Sam Biddle, former senior writer for Gawker, current technology reporter for the Intercept:

Ive enjoyed working with John over the course of many years, and consider him both a friend and a mentor. I wish him the best of luck going forward.

Adam Pash, former Gawker Media director of editorial labs, current lead engineer at Postlight:

Never in my life have I offered John Cook tech advice. I have never worked in tech support. I have never wanted to work in tech support. I am sincerely sorry that Apple continues to push you into the cloud. (Maybe a good investigation for your upcoming leisure time?)

Aleksander Chan, managing editor, Splinter:

When I think of the person who embodies everything the late Gawker Media believed inradical transparency, a revulsion to bullshit, a sense of humor thats actually funnyI think of John. And when I think of John, I also think about how he inspired people to do some of their best work or fought to let them at least try. When those thoughts pass, I remember how I can count on one hand the number of people who reached out to me during one of the worst days of my career so far, and Ill always be grateful that John was among them.


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