The Power of a Gawker Post to Inspire Gift-Giving

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Kelli Space has $189,182.39 of student loan debt. Just for an undergraduate degree from Northeastern University. At 23 -- and living with her parents -- she's currently paying $891 a month just to cover her private loans. Next November, those payments will jump to about $1,600 per month and remain at that level for the next 20 years.

The average 2009 college graduate holds about $24,000 in student loan debt, which is enough to make anybody feel vulnerable. But compared to Space, that's nothing.

Hoping to capitalize on the success of similar websites, Space started a Tumblr: TwoHundredThou.com, where she is soliciting donations to help her pay down her loans.

In between posts about Time Out New York not paying its contributors for months at a time and a post about Hunter S. Thompson coining the word "gonzo," Gawker's Hamilton Nolan did a story on Space and her site. "To Kelli's credit, she's not unaware of how that sounds; she accepts responsibility for her predicament, and acknowledges that there are surely more worthy charities out there than hers," Nolan wrote. (His link used to go through to a FAQ page on TwoHundredThou.com, but that page has since been removed for unknown reasons.)

As a blogger, I know that having Gawker pick up your story -- and link back to your site -- can do wonders in terms of driving traffic. But I was curious how much of an impact Nolan's piece would have on Space's fundraising. So I waited 48 hours.

Space launched her site, it appears, on August 1, with a screenshot of her outstanding debt as the first post (see above image). Between August 1 and November 22, when Nolan wrote the post on Gawker, she raised 10 cents towards her goal of nearly $200,000. That wouldn't even cover the domain name. In the last two days, though, according to a progress page on Space's Tumblr, she has raised $2,132.37. That's a big jump.

Space didn't respond to a request for comment, but the Gawker post has presumably driven a number of people to the Tumblr site. So many that Space felt obligated to issue an update this morning at 7:04 a.m. "While I'm extremely grateful to everyone who's donated, I fear I've misrepresented myself in one way or another, as there have been many misconceptions the past couple of days," Space wrote. "I do not expect donations from anyone -- how could I? There was no way for me to know the kind of response I'd receive. ... People have provided me with various links, causing me to look deeper into legislation on student loans; people have asked questions to understand student loan situations better; and people have shared their own related issues, and I absolutely feel for them as well."

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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