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
To: [EDITORIAL]
Subject: Getting out of the way of the story

http://beta.gawker.com/#5674353/i-had-a-one+night-stand-with-christine-odonnell

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!