Four Questions: Gawker Media’s Richard Blakeley

IMG_1740-thumb.jpgIn April, Gawker Media’s video editor Richard Blakeley (“two ‘e’s in Blakeley”) organized his first Media Meshing party. What he originally intended as a way to get his friends such as the tech guys of Gizmodo and the lady bloggers of Fleshbot together in the same room has spiraled into the monthly must-go for members of Manhattan’s young media set. Ahead of this month’s meet-up — on September 11 so “people won’t forget” — we spoke with Blakeley about the surprising success of his party, how he convinced the world Randy Quaid was going to play Tim Russert in a made-for-TV movie and what exactly a video editor does all day.

1. You seemed surprised by the initial success of Media Meshing. Are you surprised by its continued success?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I thought it would only last two or three months and then it would jump the shark so to speak and I would have to figure out something new. Initially, my idea for it wasn’t nearly as big. I was very surprised that so many people made it to the first one.

I’m one of the few people at Gawker Media that has the privilege of working with all of the blogs and what I noticed was that when I would hang out with my friends at Gizmodo, we would go to tech stuff and it was always very much a sausage fest. On the opposite end, I would go cover events for Fleshbot with all these lady bloggers who talked about sex all the time and how they couldn’t find a nice guy. My initial idea was to have a party so that some of my friends outside of Gawker — but mostly my friends inside of Gawker — could all hang out at once. It was too difficult to say, “Hey, why don’t you come to this tech party” or “Why don’t you come to this sex party” so I’ll just throw my own afterwork bar party.

2. Let’s talk about what you do at Gawker. Your title is video editor. What does that entail?
I have one of a handful of jobs in the entire world. It’s video editor, not as a person who sits in the darkroom and edits video all the time, but as an editor like a newspaper editor is an editor. I recontextualize content, I make my own and I report on it.

There are three basic breakdowns of the type of stuff I do. I have interns who watch TV, looking for people to mess up. Usually it’s dumb stuff, like if someone trips and falls, catches on fire, swears accidentally or generally messes up. That’s content that we post under fair use that’s newsworthy and we talk about it and report on it.

The second one is any big trends that are going on, like the conventions. For example, we’ll make a video by putting all the impassioned commentary together. Or if someone says something and then a month ago they said something completely on the opposite spectrum, we’ll put those together, like The Daily Show does.

The third one is original content, where I actually go out and shoot it. This is a type of job where you have to do all three. All are very important to traffic.

3. Favorite personal prank or stunt? The CES thing got a lot of press, but I liked the Rental Car Rally from Long Island City to Montreal better.
I started a rumor a couple weeks ago that Randy Quaid was going to play Tim Russert in a made-for-TV movie and it was going to focus on the last 24 hours of his life. It went out on the Internet, got picked up a few places and then finally a guy from the New York Post called us out on our bullshit. He contacted Randy Quaid himself over the holiday weekend and said to us, “It’s funny because I had to track Randy Quaid down and he said he’s never heard of you guys and that he hasn’t been asked to play the role of Tim Russert.” Our reply was, “That doesn’t sound like the Randy Quaid we know,” but that was the final bust. It didn’t work out beyond that.

The CES thing is really interesting though because people said I was going to be blackballed from any kind of electronics thing and CES, and I don’t plan on going back, but I haven’t been [blackballed]. Most people received it really, really well and they took the joke. The journalists were more upset than the electronics people, which I thought was interesting. The journalists felt like I was pushing them back further, and the electronics people really had a good time with it and really understood the context and weren’t all that mad. It was more of a threat with blogging in general that they would lose their rights. The electronics people were just glad we were covering them, no matter how bad it was.

4. Any thoughts on the new Gawker managing editor?
It’s going to be hard to find somebody as good as [Nick] Denton. Yeah, it’s going to be very, very hard.