by Matthew J.X. Malady
People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, writer Cord Jefferson tells us more about his new job.
Here is some info: I’m leaving Gawker to work on a television show. Gawker is great and full of geniuses and I’m going to miss it a lot.
— Cord Jefferson (@cordjefferson) February 4, 2014
Cord! So what happened here?
In mid-January I got a call saying that a guy had reached out to my literary agent to ask if I’d be interested in writing for television. That person turned out to be Mike O’Malley, the showrunner for a project being tentatively called “Survivor’s Remorse.” Mike and I met for coffee on a Friday and the official, final offer for the job came through the next day, at 10 p.m. If I wanted the job I had to start on the upcoming Monday. It made me feel shitty to have to leave Gawker on such short notice, but I counseled with a dude I trust and pay, and he told me that the opportunity I was being given was too rare to pass up. Thankfully my boss at Gawker, John Cook, was super-supportive. During that first week he let me finish out my time at Gawker in the mornings before heading to the TV writers’ room in the afternoons.
And, yes, I’m absolutely planning on continuing to write for Gawker, and any other place that will have me, when I’ve got the time. I enjoyed the work I was doing before all this, and I don’t want to let the skills I’d built up doing that kind of writing completely atrophy. Also, while I’m excited about the show I’m working on and hopeful that it will do very well, I’m aware of the fact that the world of TV is unstable in that shows can come and go in an instant. Even if they’re a big hit you aren’t guaranteed a consistent paycheck every two weeks of the year, which is why I have no intention of devoting my entire career to TV. Maybe I’ll hate this job, or be really terrible at it. I’m really loving it at the moment, but if that joy dries up I’ll have to find something else to do, and what I was doing before was more than fine by me.
That all sounds fantastic and exciting! What will you miss most about Gawker, and what are you most looking forward to about this new project?
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Gawker Media is the best place I’ve ever worked. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course — and there are enough opinions about Gawker to choke a dinosaur — but the freedom that company gives people to think differently, to write differently, and to try shit out is, I think, truly important, and it’s what I’ll miss the most. There aren’t a lot of publications in which you’re going to find a letter from a death-row inmate published next to a ranking of sauces published next to a funeral dirge for a dead dolphin published next to an essay I wrote about America and racism, and that’s due in large part to the freedom of thought that’s allowed to flourish at Gawker. I’ll also miss the people. I love every damn person I worked with at that place, from Nick Denton on down. My colleagues made coming to work every day hilarious, edifying, and intimidating. I’ll probably miss them the most, come to think of it.
The thing I’m most looking forward to is trying something new. When I started my career I never set out to be a journalist or an essayist or a blogger; I just wanted to be a writer, with no kind of qualifier preceding that title. Now that I’m in the thick of this new venture I’m scared as hell of failing and going broke, but most of that fear is tempered with the excitement of trying to get good at something unlike anything I’ve worked on before. Maybe I’ll ruin my life, but maybe I won’t, so that’s fun.
I’m also pretty eager to not feel an internal pull to write about all the racist shit that happens in America constantly. Thinking and writing about a new black person being murdered by a racist or arrested by a bad cop every other week can start to wear on your psyche. I wrote a thing about Richard Sherman right before I left Gawker, and I was proud of that piece, but the day it was published I ended up texting with a black writer friend about how exhausting it can be to always be considering the fresh and inventive ways black people get beaten down in this country. I think about race a lot, and I probably always will, but writing about it day in and day out can also erode something in you and make you angry. On the day I was texting with my friend I quoted to him the Dave Chappelle line “This racism is killin’ me inside!” and I was only half joking. (Speaking of racism on the internet, another thing I like about this job is that it’s forced me to stop looking at people scream at each other on Twitter and Tumblr and the rest of the internet all day. At my new office they make us close our computers and turn off our phones during work, which has been strange but soothing.)
Lesson learned (if any)?
Here is one interesting thing I’ve learned so far: Film and TV writing doesn’t require that the stuff you write be produced in order for you to get paid. There are writers who make great livings — like hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — working in Hollywood without ever seeing anything they write actually get made into a TV show or a movie. Isn’t that wild?
Just one more thing.
Work really hard on things that make you feel happy and proud, do work that makes you feel like you’re improving, feel free to screw up from time to time, take calculated risks, and be as kind as you can stomach to everyone you meet. Is that smarm? Just kidding.
Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.