Gawker Media, Potential-for-Discursive-Dysentery Edition

I’m actually pretty excited about the Gawker-led experiment with Open Forums that I wrote about earlier today: it will be madness, yes—but, I hope, with method in it.

That is, though, a rosy view. Journalist Michael Roston, in particular, takes a sharp little pin to the Gawker-blown Hope Bubble, predicting that Gawker’s Open Forum-enabled sites will soon descend into troll-tastic chaos in the manner of, yes, 4-chan:

Just wait until some enterprising cabal, and there is always an enterprising cabal, figures out how to fiddle with your hash tags so that the top of every index page is filled with a video of someone driving a Hummer over a litter of puppies.

The Internet, yes, is anarchic. But Gawker has long been an oasis, a perch from which a few cool heads saw the anarchy and promoted some of the best parts of it. But when you let all of the anarchy inside the oasis, someone’s going to take a dump in the watering hole. One dump leads to many dumps, and that’s when everyone gets dysentery.

All I can say is, good luck /g/-tards.

So, okay. But one thing Roston misses—and it’s something that could make all the difference between healthy user engagement and 4-chan-icized chaos—is that the Gawker blogs are preternaturally proficient at community-building. Gawker users are, compared to the average blog user, highly engaged; and one result of their investment is that they are generally fiercely protective of the sites they read, comment on, etc. Which means that a system that might well spell 4-chan-esque bedlam anywhere else…could, on Gawker, actually be quite effective.

So, for now, my Hope Bubble remains. And on it is written: good luck /g/-tards.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.