Type of site
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Wonkette is an American online magazine of topical satire and political gossip, established in 2004 by Gawker Media and founding editor Ana Marie Cox, edited by Ken Layne from 2006 to 2012, and owned and edited by Rebecca Schoenkopf since 2012. Prominent U.S. political bloggers including Juli Weiner, Jim Newell and Alex Pareene established their careers at Wonkette. The current editor is Rebecca Schoenkopf, formerly of OC Weekly. Wonkette covers US politics from Washington DC to local schoolboards. Taking a sarcastic tone, the site focuses heavily on humorous breaking news, rumors, and the downfall of the powerful. It also deals with serious matters of politics and policy, and is often critical of Republican politics.
Launch and history
Wonkette was established in January 2004 as part of the Gawker Media network. Its founding editor was Ana Marie Cox, a former editor at suck.com. Under her tenure, Wonkette became known for its sharp and sarcastic voice, and for its mixture of political discourse with humour such as references to gin and anal sex.
Cox rapidly established a large reading audience and media notice for the site. The blog gained further national media attention after Cox publicized the story of Jessica Cutler aka "Washingtonienne", a former Hill staffer who blogged about her affair with a member of former Senator Mike DeWine's staff.
Cox announced her resignation as Wonkette's editor on January 5, 2006, in order to promote her book, Dog Days, and was succeeded by David Lat, the author of Underneath Their Robes, a blog about the federal judiciary, and Alex Pareene, a young New York University student and Gawker intern/guest editor in New York who moved to D.C. for the Wonkette position. (In late 2007, Pareene moved to the flagship Gawker site and, in April 2010, to Salon.)
In June 2006, Lat announced his decision to leave Wonkette. His slot was to be filled by guest editors until August 2006, when longtime political blogger Ken Layne joined as editor. Wonkette reached its largest pre-2008 audience during the 2006 midterm elections due to scandal coverage of Mark Foley and other incumbents involved in corruption, sex-abuse and bribery scandals.
After Pareene and Layne's departure in October 2007, a team of new editors including John Clarke, Jr., and Megan Carpentier was installed by Gawker management. Gawker publisher Nick Denton brought Layne back as sole editor two months later, who put in place the team of Jim Newell of IvyGate, videographer Liz Glover, former Gawker blogger Sara K. Smith, Columbia literary magazine The Blue and White editor Juli Weiner, and longtime contributors Princess Sparkle Pony (Peter Huestis) and Josh Fruhinger, the Comics Curmudgeon.
Wonkette teams covered both the Denver DNC and St. Paul RNC conventions. Newell and columnist Josh Fruhlinger covered Barack Obama's inauguration in Washington. As with many political websites, readership hit new records between the November 2008 election and January 2009 inauguration.
Past and current guest editors and contributors include Reason Magazine editor Nick Gillespie, Washington Post reporter David Weigel, DCeiver editor and Huffington Post writer Jason Linkins, Gawker editor and The Awl founder Choire Sicha, New York comedian and author Sara Benincasa, Chicago artist and journalist Lauri Apple, Boston Globe political blogger Garrett Quinn, cartoonist Benjamin Frisch, and Vanity Fair online writer Juli Weiner.
The name of the site is a play on the slang word wonk, meaning a "zealous student of political policy", adding the feminine ending to best describe founding editor Cox and as a play on the word "gazette."
Separation from Gawker Media
On April 14, 2008, Gawker Media announced that it was selling Wonkette and that Layne would remain managing editor and part owner. Gawker Media head Nick Denton attributed the sale to "hunkering down" before another dot com downturn and the Internet bubble bursts: "And, even if not, better safe than sorry; and better too early than too late..." Gawker's Silicon Valley gossip site, Valleywag, was folded into the flagship Gawker.com site, its popular music site, Idolator, was sold to Buzznet, and The Consumerist was sold to Consumers Union as part of the same divestiture effort.
Style and frequent targets
Wonkette makes frequent targets of mainstream media outlets like CNN, The Washington Post and Politico, when they are perceived as missing opportunities for substantive political analysis by attempting to get "scoops" or simply covering the actions of others in the mainstream media. Truck Nutz references became very popular during the 2008 Presidential Election, while following the election of Barack Obama, the site also began making frequent jokes at the expense of Tea Party Protesters, Birthers, Peggy Noonan's weekly column and Sarah Palin. Right wing blogs such as Andrew Breitbart's Big Government and National Review Online's The Corner are constant targets.
Liberal in outlook, Wonkette responded to being characterized as "left leaning" previously in Wikipedia:
"Wikipedia is wrong. We are not left-leaning. We might be a little tipsy, ok, maybe even a little drunk sometimes, and lilting markedly to a side that some cultures refer to as left, but if we are going to lean, it will be IN, thank you very much! While our little blockquote above is largely factual, and the following two grafs hold up to minor scrutiny, the rest of the entry either widely misses the mark, or consists of Things Of Which We Do Not Speak Because They Were Dumb And We Are Sorry. So allow us to correct the record here, as we are too lazy to make a wikipedia account."
- Gifzette Daily Briefing: Morning humor and commentary by Matt Langer, editor of Gifzette and writer for The Awl.
- Ayn Rand's Adventures In Wonderland: America 2010: Serial graphic novel by cartoonist Benjamin Frisch. The series has concluded.
- Barry, Can You Hear Me?: Op-ed column by comedian/radio host Sara Benincasa.
- Cartoon Violence: Weekly or bi-weekly study of a few poor-quality political cartoons. The cartoons often share a theme. Written by Josh Fruhlinger, who is also the author of The Comics Curmudgeon.
- Rumors On the Internets: Daily collection of often ridiculous political opinions from the blogs; named for George W. Bush's 2004 debate performance mention of "rumors on the Internets".
- Washington Blingees: Political figures depicted as MySpace-style animated gifs filled with hip-hop and "tween" imagery.
- It's Morning In America: Daily news briefing that mocks the style of Beltway news roundups that aim to shape news and opinion. This feature was replaced by the Gifzette Daily Briefing by Matt Langer.
- Fridays With Peggy: Deconstructions of Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal column, often recasting her writing as either the work of a Tory from the 17th century or that of a depraved Gonzo-style character suffering constant hallucinations in her Upper East Side apartment.
- Win of the Afternoon: Snarky reader comments.
- Wonkette World 'o Books: Reviews of political books, mostly those written by Republican political or media celebrities, edited by book reviewer Greer Mansfield.
Awards and accomplishments
The Bloggies at SXSW selected Wonkette as Best Political Blog in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Wonkette was chosen as a top political blog by Vanity Fair and Real Simple in 2008. Wonkette won the Best Liberal Blog category in the 2008 Weblog Awards and is nominated in the humor, politics and group-blog categories in the 2009 and 2010 Bloggies. Items are frequently picked up by national broadcasts including Colbert Report, Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me and CNN.
As a satirical website that specifically mocks public figures, mostly from the right wing of American politics, Wonkette has generated many controversies during its publication.
Trig Palin controversy
In April 2011, Wonkette came under criticism after blogger Jack Stuef wrote a post that was interpreted as mocking Trig Palin for his having Down syndrome. Among other things the post suggested that Trig was possibly the result of incest between Todd Palin and Bristol Palin. In response, at least 14 advertisers, including major companies such as Ford, Toyota, Verizon, Nordstrom, and Papa John's, announced that they would exclude their network remnant advertising from Wonkette. Editor Ken Layne announced that Stuef was placed on probation and Stuef apologized for the post.
- "Wonkette.com Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
- Your Wonkette Has a New Wonkette Publisher/Editor, For Freedom!
- Bosman, Julie (2004-04-18). "First With the Scoop, if Not the Truth". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- Rosen, Jeffrey (2004-12-19). "Your Blog or Mine?". New York Times (New York Times Company). Retrieved 2008-07-29.
- ON LANGUAGE; The 'Bizarre' Bazaar
- Ken Layne (2008-04-14). "Yes We Can: Wonkette Goes Solo". Wonkette.com. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
- "Introducing Wonkabout" http://wonkabout.com/406166/introducing-wonkabout-the-dc-guide/?from=wonkette_post
- "Tattooed Pig Urges Wonkabout To Leave DC (Goodbye Forever!)" http://wonkette.com/444093/tattooed-pig-urges-wonkabout-to-rethink-life-leave-dc-goodbye-forever/?from=wonkette_post
- "Politico’s SCOOP Reveals Journalists Talk To Each Other, With Covert Digital Marxist iGroupthink Thing" http://wonkette.com/407061/politicos-scoop-reveals-journalists-talk-to-each-other-with-covert-digital-marxist-igroupthink-thing
- Wonkette: "CNN’s Ed Henry Writes Worst Article In American History" 3/25/2009 http://wonkette.com/407264/cnns-ed-henry-writes-worst-article-in-american-history
- Sara K. Smith, "Daily Briefing: Birthers Demand Evidence That Obama’s Baseball Pitch Was Valid And Official" July 15, 2009 Wonkette.com http://wonkette.com/409860
- Wonkette Articles Tagged "Sarah Palin" http://wonkette.com/?s=sarah+palin
- Jim Newell, "Peggy Noonan Discovereth Thine Twitter Machine" Wonkette.com July 22, 2009.
- "Andrew Breitbart Longing To Shoot The Next Person Who Insults Him" Wonkette.com September 19, 2011.
- List of dropped advertisers
- Sadowski, Jathan (2011-04-20). "Boycotting Wonkette [UPDATE: Probation]". Slate.com. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
- Dickson, Caitlin. "Derek Hunter Attempts to Defund Wonkette by Boycott". NationalJournal.com. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
- Hagey, Keach (2011-04-21). "Advertisers boycott Wonkette over Trig Palin post - On Media". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2013-08-07.