When I started writing a nightlife column for the Village Voice back in 2002, was just a fledging site, written by one person, Elizabeth Spiers. The writing was pointed and witty; its subject was the media’s favorite subject—itself.

After a few months, the site quickly upended the New York Post’s gossip column, Page Six, and its media columnist, Keith Kelly, as the place to want to see your name in bold or have your story talked about. It was ego-stroking, sure, but it was also terrifying when they decided to call you to the carpet, or worse, just make fun of you.

I became friendly with Spiers, and friendlier still with its subsequent editors, Choire Sicha and Jessica Coen, as well as Alex Balk and Mark Graham who later hired me to do some writing for its defunct Hollywood spinoff, Defamer. During Choire’s reign, I would look forward to opening the page and starting my day with a hearty chuckle. I can’t tell you how many times I hit refresh. I would ping Coen nearly daily on IM, sometimes to chat, sometimes to pitch her one of my stories. I was in awe of her amazingly sharp mind, and how self-possessed and assured she was at such a young age. Also, if you squinted, we almost looked like twins.

I knew that if I landed on Gawker, which just announced it is closing shop, my stories would shoot to the top of the most read list on our site. It was addicting. They covered me frequently—giving my scoops a shout out, occasionally quoting me, and wrote about the ending of my column with kindness. They helped make me a local celebrity of sorts.

But it wasn’t always pleasant. When I gave a somewhat obnoxious (ok, totally obnoxious) interview to Gothamist, basically shitting on New York City, Choire posted the link with the headline, “Tricia Romano Hates New York.” The comments are now long gone—but I distinctly remember one commenter wanting to come after me with a sock filled with batteries. For years, that interview and that post were the first thing that came up when you Googled my name. It was anxiety inducing.

The worst was when Emily Gould—the fourth editor—completely threw me under the bus. (Warning: this is really inside baseball). I had written a controversial cover story about an industry gadfly and personal acquaintance, Ultragrrrl (real name: Sarah Lewitinn). Sarah had a small column in Spin (which at the time was edited by my good friend Sia Michel), and had started her own music label based on the strength of her having help to discover My Chemical Romance. She was also the subject of a lot of online misogyny. I thought that she didn’t get the respect she deserved. I wrote a story about her called "In Defense of Ultragrrrl", and it went viral.


In the piece, Sarah claimed to have sold 38,000 copies of her book, The Pocket DJ, and on the strength of those sales, inked a second book deal. When Gould asked me casually over email, claiming that it was just a casual, not-for-attribution conversation just between us friends how I got that number, I told her that it was per Sarah.

She then printed my email as a quote.

Oh, the rage I felt. While it was not my finest moment as a reporter—at the very least, I should have qualified it with “Sarah claims she sold 38,000 copies”—but Gould, in my opinion, had stooped far lower. She had led me to believe a conversation was off the record and used it anyway. It was a small peek inside just how fast and loose with the journalistic rules Gawker was willing to go. It was this sort of recklessness that was their ultimate undoing.

Gould and I made up. She even sort of apologized publicly. We’re social media friends now and I wish her well.

As the years have rolled by, Gawker like the rest of media had changed. In its later years, it led the way in the Internet getting meaner, cheaper, and more diffuse—going after clickbait and easily-landed fish. Even as my refresh habit endured, it became less interesting to me. By the time it had posted the Hulk Hogan video that was its ultimate undoing, it had traveled very far from the Choire’s laughter-inducing posts, or the insider gossip produced by Spiers and Coen. I still hit refresh a few times a day, but I longed for the days when I knew the people on its pages personally or via the industry parties.

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When I heard the news of its closure, my journalistic instincts kicked in and I emailed Coen, found Nick Denton, Spiers, and Sicha for comment. Choire responded. He was just getting on the subway when he wrote back. “Freaked out, sad, enraged and lonely! You can quote that!!”

Gawker’s demise won't be viewed as a monumental loss in the greater media landscape—it’s not like the closure of a major newspaper like the New York Times. But I associate it so closely with a certain part of my youth, I feel sentimental about it. We came up together, we grew up together. But now, we won’t grow old together.

R.I.P. Gawker.

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