Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Gawker Honcho: "Writers are Successful to the Extent That They Can Sublimate Their Egotism"

Here's Nick Dentons's memo on today's top Gawker story, an anonymous first-person account of a date with politician Christine O'Donnell, celebrating its "brilliant packaging" and other fine qualities. His advice for journalists: "it's better to get out of the way of the pictures."

From: Nick Denton
Date: October 28, 2010 3:52:52 PM EDT
Subject: Getting out of the way of the story

This Gawker scoop is an example of brilliant packaging. The composite image that shows up on the front is good; the pull quotes; etc.

But, best of all: the story was written in the first person. The journalist is a ghost-writer. The account is much more compelling as a result. As is the headline.

And this points to a general rule on the web. Writers are successful to the extent that they can sublimate their egotism and get out of the way of the story.

Sometimes a video or photo is undermined — not enhanced — by the length of the companion text.

That atmospheric video of the Iceland volcano works because it takes the viewer there; it and the track create a mood. A TV reporter friend of mine, when I told him how successful these clips were, moaned to me: but what do I do? He wants to be the guy at the rim of the volcano, saying: "This is Matt Wells, reporting from Iceland."

But it's better to get out of the way of the pictures.

Unless the story happened to you, or the piece revolves around your opinion, in which case get in the way as much as you can!

47 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#1,720)

Nick Denton decries egotism, compares slut-shaming to national geographic videos.

Multiphasic (#411)

And what if you find O'Donnell to be majestic and atmospheric, but regard volcanoes as filthy, filthy whores?

BadUncle (#153)

Lava. Hot, flowing lava. It gives me a funny feeling in my tiki torch area.

freetzy (#7,018)

Matt Wells once got to second-base with a volcano.

C_Webb (#855)

So I should or shouldn't vote for the volcano? I'm confused.

jolie (#16)

Good God, man, put some ice in that wine. Were you raised by wolves??

Matt (#26)

They now appreciate the "generally" form generally.

NinetyNine (#98)

Don't get in the way of a good pubic hair pull quote.

Man, Nick Denton is throwing down some life lessons today.

Matt (#26)


kneetoe (#1,881)

Does he have a different definition of "ghost writer" than the rest of the world?

Multiphasic (#411)

He meant "witch writer".

(low-hanging fruit)

Pop Socket (#187)

Shorter Denton: Page views are through the roof. Do more of these.

Miles Klee (#3,657)


C_Webb (#855)


Screen Name (#2,416)

I look forward to that quiet and beautiful day, not too far in the distant future, when all forms of communications, in all circumstances, take the form of pictures and short videos; a civilization that has finally come full circle, where even the most complex legal document or the lease to an apartment is little more than a brief, well-formed rebus that could have once been painted on the wall of a cave.

propertius (#361)

By that time don't you think it will be all pictures of people beating and stabbing each other?

Well, maybe some bonking on the side.

Screen Name (#2,416)

I certainly hope so.

freetzy (#7,018)

propertius, that is exactly what I assume is going to happen in that new Werner Herzog 3-D documentary.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Luck, timing, and the low-ball. Who knew?

zidaane (#373)

It was originally headlined I Fucked a Ladybug by Me until Nick passed his wand over it.

C_Webb (#855)

I Fucked A Hairy Ladybug By Me

David (#192)

Nick Denton is onto something here. A consensus may be in formation.

I once sat as a guest member of the audience at the Columbia Journalism School during a lecture in that great hall where Joseph Pulitzer stares out from his painted portrait directly into the eyes of those seated in the room … as Lewis H. Lapham answered a question about what specific aspect of a writing could give it an edge in the contest for space (in Harper's Magazine) and for attention. Lapham replied that stories written in the first person, stories that include "I" (and the faint odor of perspiration) had the advantage … as in this first-person account of a date with politician Christine O'Donnell.

jrb (#3,020)

Yeah, you tell 'em, Every Political Journalist. Link to their story and call them trashy. That'll show 'em.

Or you know, take Denton's advice and sublimate the egotism…. Nah, couldn't do that. I CAN'T WAIT TO HEAR WHAT (random twitter handle) THINKS ABOUT THIS!

hockeymom (#143)

That Denton guy is brilliant. Until he pointed it out, I would never have known that FIRST PERSON ACCOUNTS of an event can be compelling. And that the journalist is NOT THE STORY.
This is ground breaking stuff.
My head, it is BLOWN.

It's the new Garbanzo Journalism. Full of beans.

kneetoe (#1,881)

At first I thought you said "Full of bears" and I was about to be pissed.

Subject: How To Catch Lightning In A Bottle

For there to be The Awl there has to be The Denton.

deepomega (#1,720)

For Denton is the left hand of Sicha… and Sicha the right hand of Denton.

PropSword (#2,870)

The question is… what are those hands doing?

Matt (#26)

It seems like we're destined to do this forever.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Matt: Important question: which of them is Batman? (Hint: Only of them is a millionaire)

Matt (#26)


Matt (#26)

Do you think they were drunk on Hornitos that night?

roboloki (#1,724)

if we slather this guy in preparation h will he dry up and go away?

hugesunglasses (#2,696)

That wine goes for $136/glass.

Aatom (#74)

This memo would have been a lot better if it was just the pic of him drinking wine.

moreliketrombley (#8,291)

Here's another sterling example of first person, egoless reportage from Nick Denton's empire. Hope Jezebel doesn't find out about this one, where a porn actress tells guys how to pick up on gamer girls and photos of her bending over in front of computers. Funny how Jezebel never seems to know about this stuff, huh?

You could link Fleshbot articles in all of your posts on Jezebel for fun.

KarenUhOh (#19)

From: Nick
To: Everyone Else Who's Not Nick, Although You Wanted To Be

1. I'm doing it My Way;
2. Do as I Say, not as I Do;
3. Show Me, don't Tell Me;
4. My Way is the Highway.

Nick Denton is Fred Durst?


Matt (#26)

Does that make Balk Wes Borland? I am just going to go on thinking it does.

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

“Writers are successful to the extent that they can sublimate their egotism and get out of the way of the story.”

Ever read the Bible, Denton? That author is hamming it up all over the place. Massive fail.

sailor (#396)

Because the more they can sublimate, the less you have to pay them. Same thing Rick Desmond used to tell me.

libmas (#231)

Never mind the ice cubes, doesn't Mr. Denton know that the whole point of a stem on a wine glass is so that your warm and grubby little hand doesn't have to touch the bowl of the glass and thus warm up the wine above the proper serving temperature? He'll never make it into the Harvard Club at this rate.

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