Don't Dream, It's Over


There is no real origin story for Splinter.

Across my two years as editor in chief, people would ask me how I went about rebranding Fusion, the woke millennial news site, into Splinter, the rude politics blog, and usually came away disappointed. They wanted a complicated mythology, a long, long backstory about overcoming obstacles and being told no again and again until we were finally told yes. I don’t have that for them.

A big part of that is because of where we worked. The entire project of Gawker Media (and then Gizmodo Media) was to publish stories no one else would touch—to say what has gone unsaid, to show what’s been hidden, to be rude when being polite wasn’t working. That’s why the sites were (and are) so exciting to read: They let you in on the secret. No one’s bullshitting you, no one’s holding anything back. Imagine: publications where the writers were honest about what they believed, and what they didn’t.

GMG believed that you only needed the vaguest of organizing principles (in this case, “politics”), and plenty of conviction and sense for what was interesting, to have a good website. No one told us what Splinter had to be or what it couldn’t be. We just decided, every day, what it was. And so Splinter became what it had to be. It was both a conscious and totally unconscious decision. The site purely reflected the values and interests of its staff: Splinter was a “news and politics website” insomuch that its writers and editors cared about news and politics, and thought they were interesting, or just funny, and wrote about them, and we were lucky enough to work somewhere that fostered that kind of self-determination.

And the vast majority of what we published was about politics. We wrote critically of the right-wing fever-swamp and the inept Democratic establishment supposedly fighting it; we went in hard against media institutions failing to live up to their fundamental promise (to inform); we were deranged, feral, vicious, and unsparing; we covered labor, workers’ rights, and Indigenous issues; we showed the human cost of unchecked capitalist greed and those hallowed inalienable rights. We refused to settle.

But plenty of times, we didn’t write about politics. We wrote about movies, TV shows, yogurt, sex, the weather, White Claw, viral videos, hogs, memes, eggs, spoons, bags (and what constitutes one); every day the site could be totally different from the last, whether by the whims of the news, or who was working that day. You could be as dumb or smart as you wanted, sometimes both on the same day. And that’s what made it exciting and interesting.

Not every day of the site was good. Some days were really great. A few were incredible. We were no better than our own humanity: we got in coverage ruts, bit off more than we could chew, and made mistakes. That’s all just part of the daily news business. We weren’t always shooting from the hip; there were coverage plans, and editorial calendars, and trips booked, and ideas pitched, and projects launched. All the normal things you expect. We just weren’t precious about what a Splinter story was supposed to be. Splinter was both a Politics Website and a “politics website,” because it could be. Because why not? You could let the freedom GMG provided paralyze you, or you could let it take you to all the weird, hilarious, painful, and meaningful places it’s meant to lead you.

That freedom has led us here, to the end. This is the last Splinter post. And while we won’t be publishing anymore, it’s never really over. Here’s an abridged version of what I told the staff—in our last little huddle together—right after we were told the site wouldn’t continue: Splinter can be shut down, but what we’ve accomplished can’t be undone. The proof is in the work and who noticed it and who it made mad. It was all worth it. — Aleksander Chan, Editor in Chief

If a group of corporate suits got together and decided to create a politics website, it would look nothing like Splinter. A rowdy, confrontational, weird as hell, super-leftist politics site? Are you kidding me? But that’s what our many bosses got, because we weren’t prepared to do things any way but the way that felt right to us. We had no mission except to be fiercely true to ourselves, to let our interests and our passions and our strange flights of fancy guide us, and to call out anyone we thought was putting some measure of harm into the world. I could go through a long list of all of the great work we did, from the deadly serious to the wonderfully stupid, but everything sprang from those basic principles. It was simple, really—and that’s what made it continually worthwhile, even when things were at their most challenging and precarious. The site was, at its best, as pure an expression of the people who made it as it’s possible to be, and the people who worked here were so, so good the entire way through, including our final, immortal crew.

I will be forever grateful to Splinter for the work I was able to do here, but I am equally grateful because of what Splinter, and GMG, did for me. I was never a Gawker person. (A tiresome cliche to bring Gawker, or GMG, or whatever, into this sort of thing, I know, but what can I do?) I admired the sites, of course, but the many paeans to how special it was to work at GMG never really landed with me. Well, I get it now. People are constantly writing about how “fearless” GMG sites are, and that is true. But they are only fearless because everyone, across all the sites and within our beloved and hardcore GMG Union, is in total solidarity with everyone else. They protect each other, and defend each other—they make each other fearless. You feel like you can take one flying leap after another because you know that the rest of GMG will be there to catch you. There is no place like this place. It made me braver and better and I’m just glad I got to be at some version of it for even a couple of years.

When I first got a job at Fusion, Splinter’s predecessor, I remember telling people that I was optimistic I’d be going to a place with a little stability. This, to put it mildly, is not how things turned out. In a little over three years, I have been through one round of sweeping layoffs, one round of sweeping buyouts, one merger, one sale, one union contract negotiation, one lawsuit, three office locations, a thousand corporate dramas, a million site dramas, and now the end of a website I have poured more of myself into than was probably healthy. We went through a lot of hard times. We—and I—got a lot of things wrong. But we got way more right, and we put things that were good and courageous and righteous and insane and true and beautiful into the world, and we did it again and again and again, and ultimately I am not thinking about all of the hard stuff. I am just thinking about how much I loved it. — Jack Mirkinson, Deputy Editor

Splinter never felt long for this world. I was hired on at Fusion, a combination woke millennial news and TV channel—a phrase that, even though it was only a few years back, already feels like a quaint relic. So when we rebranded (spinning off from Fusion the TV network, yes, this is just as interesting a story to tell at parties) we felt totally free. We got to work building exactly the politics site we wanted, which was a left-wing news site that ran on pure uncut deranged energy and made enemies of all the right people.

Early on, I remember my editor telling me “no heroes,” and we stuck with that—a guiding principle that felt increasingly like the only honest way of covering our current hellscape as this administration revved into full gear. I thought a lot about how every single day, with every story we assigned, we were making a decision about what Splinter would be. And then it just was. Something about this alchemy—that we were just some randos making it up as we went along, one blog at a time—never seemed fully real. And as much as I occasionally complained about my job (inasmuch as work is inherently evil and should be illegal) I never lost sight of the fact that I got to write about basically whatever I wanted, no matter how insane, every single day. (I mean, just look at this shit we published on a real website! Incredible.) There aren’t many sites like that left, and I’ll forever be grateful that I got the chance to work at one of them.

More importantly: We went down taking no one’s shit. We acknowledged that basically all elected officials, particularly at the federal level, are self-interested at best and demons at worst. I loved that the word “ghoul” appeared so frequently in our headlines and on our site. Splinter highlighted that so much of our current hell can be traced back to capitalism, the influence of capital on politics, and the consolidation of wealth by the very, very rich—and exactly who pays the price. That we could pull off chronicling news that could feel oppressively awful and systems of power viewed as immutable and still (occasionally) be funny felt like a rare thing.

I also got to work with some of the most brilliant, hilarious weirdos in the world at Splinter. I’ll miss them—and our lengthy Slack conversations about such weighty matters as “would you fuck your clone”—the most. I learned firsthand the power of union organizing and will be forever indebted to my comrades across the sites. Keep fighting the good fight and, if you work in digital media and are reading this, organize your newsroom right fucking now.

I found my voice, I interrogated my personal politics, and I found my people working at this site. I survived (and won) a $100 million lawsuit. Our team weathered another round of mass layoffs, a corporate sale, buyouts, a long, protracted contract negotiation, an office move to one of the most cursed neighborhoods on Earth, and a million other indignities. But through it all, the union had my back, along with every other wonderful oddball working at what was once Gawker Media.

Splinter was a good site—killed by the same forces we railed against every day. It could be poetic, but we’d hate that. — Katherine Krueger, Managing Editor

I’m not much of a believer in the concept of a “dream job,” but from the day I started as a night editor until last Thursday, Splinter was the closest thing I’ve ever had to one. I was surrounded by people who constantly pumped out sharp, funny, and above all honest blogs one right after another, with zero regard for the powerful figures in media, business, and politics we were sure to piss off. I worked as a writer and a journalist for years before I came here, but because of the people I was surrounded by, Splinter is where I learned how to blog.

We were not Gawker; we couldn’t be, and we didn’t want to be. What this site did over the past few years in spite of everything, though, proves that there’s a real desire and need for challenging and antagonistic journalism, and that need is not going to go away even as the industry continues to crumble around us. I wish it had lasted longer, but this was without a doubt the best job I’ve ever had, and I will miss both it and the incredible people I got to work with over the past year and a half dearly. Splinter forever. — Paul Blest, News Editor

Hamilton Nolan, Senior Writer

Depending on how you looked at it, Splinter was one of the following; a Frankenstein’s monster, cobbled together from the corpses of other media properties, given life with a strike of fortuitous lightning, and left to find its lonely way in the world; or it was a phoenix, perpetually reborn from its predecessors’ spectacular immolations, each time emerging from the ashes a little more glorious and weird than the time before. Either way, Splinter was a place where some of the smartest, funniest, most insightful writers working today could be totally fearless in a time when fear is the prevailing sentiment across media, and our world as a whole. If there’s some small comfort to Splinter’s untimely demise, it’s that the people who made it what it was are now free to bring that same deranged energy to wherever we all end up. Splinter is dead, but it’s not really gone. Not only did it leave a nasty little scar on the oh-so-delicate skin of our precious discourse, but its ghost will always be here to rattle chains at the assholes and nitwits in power who think they can get away with making things worse off for the rest of us. Splinter was a good website. Don’t forget it, and don’t let them forget it either. — Rafi Schwartz, Senior Writer

This is not how I wanted to leave Splinter. As a reader, I was inspired by so many of the people I came to know as colleagues and even friends. As a writer, I learned how to become an unbridled voice that I’m far from ready to rein in. Splinter and my editors gave me an opportunity to project the anger and anguish and sadness we’ve all felt as journalists and people and I am having such a hard time mourning a journey that I feel, even at my employment of 10 months, was only beginning. I’m devastated that my short time with Splinter came to such an abrupt end. It’s unfair, and yet, I feel the least justified in saying it’s so. I’m already missing all my swears, my puns, and my bad “*checks notes*” interjections that only this beautiful monster of a website would allow. I have learned more about myself and my industry in these past 10 months than at any other time during my short-but-intense career, and it has been a blessing and a curse. Splinter had so much value, clearly exemplified by all the MAGA chuds in my replies (to our haters, one last time: fuck off!). Even outside of my time here, this website lit the path forward to a better world, all the while interjecting the most deranged blogs that kept its staff sane. I’m ruined, and I miss it, so much. To Aleks, Katherine, Jack, and Paul, thank you for taking this chance on me, for your patience, and your guidance. To Rafi, Cros, Nick, and Libby, thank you for your solidarity and for your gut checks. To Caitlin and Hamilton, thank you for humoring me. To T.S. and D.S., thank you for being communities of strength and light. From Austin, with all my love. — Samantha Grasso, Staff Writer

The best thing I can say about Splinter is that nearly every story I wrote for it couldn’t have appeared anywhere else on the internet. To be fair, that’s also the worst thing I could say about it. I wrote unbelievably stupid hot takes for Splinter and often got away with being utterly absurd. But I never once had to write something I didn’t actually believe in, which is more than I can say for every other digital media outlet I’ve worked for consistently. The fact that this is the last post Splinter will publish is an incredibly stupid injustice for everyone who cares about politics and the future, and also for freaks who really like yogurt. It’s probably a net win for Meghan McCain though, so congratulations to her. — Jack Crosbie, Contributor

I don’t think there’s much I could say about Splinter that my colleagues won’t already cover with greater eloquence, so I’ll simply offer this: There’s nothing else out there like Splinter, there probably never will be again, and the world is worse for it. Nearly every day, the site ran a blog (or 10) that could accurately be described as demented or unhinged, but that’s what made it the sanest place online. Also, every staffer (past and present) is the perfect degree of terrifyingly smart and functionally psycho. I love them all. Unionize your workplace. Eat the rich. RIP Splinter. — Caitlin Schneider, Social Media Editor

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