Where would you rather work: Gawker or the Cheezburger Network? Gawker's critical look at Ben Huh's media startup, Cheezburger Network, begs the question. (Huh is the owner of such fine Web properties as Icanhascheezburger.com) The piece finds that "low wages permeate the company" and many employees don't receive pay for overtime. One former worker says "In 2009 I made less than $15,000 and would have had to pay a couple hundred dollars to the IRS if it weren't for a friend who is a crafty accountant/tax preparer." A current worker says:
I'm paid hourly, but am encouraged to never bill more than 30 hours a week, although I routinely work 40 to 45 hours. If I could find a place that would pay me fairly, I would do it .. but right now, you take the work you can find.
As for Gawker's working conditions, the Manhattan gossip blog recently earned some positive press for granting full-time workers health insurance. But it wasn't always such a wonderful place to toil. In 2007, aggrieved New York magazine writer Vanessa Grigoriadis wrote a scathing exposé of what it's like to work at Gawker. She quotes then-writer Emily Gould who says working at Gawker is a "weird cross between being an artist and working in a sweatshop." Perhaps more revealing, Grigoriadis describes a cohort of bloggers at a going away party for Gawker managing editor Lockhart Steele:
Pinched nerves, carpal tunnel, swollen feet--it's all part of the dastardly job, which at the top level can involve editing one post every fifteen minutes for nine hours a day, scanning 500 Websites via RSS for news every half-hour, and on "off-hours" keeping up with the news to prepare for tomorrow...some bloggers... are in the bathroom snorting cocaine, or Adderall, the ADHD drug popular among college kids on finals week, the constant use of which is one of the only ways a blogger can write that much ("We're a drug ring, not a bunch of bloggers," one Gawker Media employee tells me cheerily)
Of course, Gawker appears to have overhauled and improved. Then, star-writer Choire Sicha (now at The Awl), was quoted complaining "Not a week goes by when I don’t want to quit this job, because staring at New York in this way makes me sick." Now, rising-star Adrian Chen merely says in an aside of a post about the Atlantic,
At one point, we too went from unfettered hobbyist hanging out on the web to a guy with a hardhat and a thermos clocking into the Content Management System