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How Journalism Got Confused with Cyberbullying

Kristi Culture 64

Hulk Hogan’s $140 million judgment against Gawker produced quite a bit of controversy, mostly due to the news that Hogan’s legal crusade was bankrolled by Peter Thiel. Many people assume that Thiel was motivated by revenge for Gawker outing him as gay several years earlier.

I do not find Thiel’s involvement particularly interesting. His detractors claim that he has accomplished “censorship by lawyer.” In reality, there is a cottage industry in finance that supports exactly this kind of legal activity. This serves a positive purpose in our justice system, in that it allows people who might not otherwise have the resources to take on a moneyed institution or business when they have been legitimately victimized.

Furthermore, the legal system is not “rigged” against journalism simply because Hogan could afford to challenge Gawker in court. These damages were awarded by a jury so sickened by Gawker’s behavior that they gave Hogan many millions of dollars more than requested. The award was ratified by a judge as a matter of law.

What I do find interesting, however, is that so many journalists clamored to Gawker’s defense.

Most non-journalists that I converse with were delighted to see Gawker taken down so spectacularly. Gawker is a morally repulsive publication — and not Larry Flynt repulsive, but let’s utterly destroy some random person’s life for giggles repulsive.

Gawker relishes abusive content and most of the time does not care if the claims they are making about people can be verified. We aren’t talking about a publication that stops at publishing celebrity nudes and sex tapes without permission, but that publishes videos of a woman being raped in a bathroom stall in a sports bar despite her begging them not to.

Contrary to what several of the reporters in my Twitter feed have suggested, Gawker does not have a reputation for “punching up.” They just punch.

I think reporters’ displays of support for Gawker in this case raises a lot of questions about ethics in journalism and demonstrates an overarching decline in editorial standards as traditional media competes with online venues. The test of journalism should be whether reporting or writing serves a public purpose. It says a lot about the state of journalism that public interest is now confused with arbitrary victimization and cyberbullying. There are pre-teens on Facebook with more professional restraint.

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My name is Kristi Culpepper, I have 10 years of experience working with youth agencies. I have a bachelor’s degree in outdoor education. I raise money, train leaders, and organize units. I have raised over $100,000 each of the last six years. I consider myself a good public speaker, and I have a good sense of humor.

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