On January 3, 2012, Gawker’s incoming editor-in-chief, A.J. Daulerio, wrote a post about the different Gawkers he had been asked to create. His mandate was to create a site with the digestible content of HuffPo (this made sense in 2012), attracting audiences with the influence of the Times and the community of Deadspin, that supported (and was supported by) a technical platform like Facebook. That same day, a Social Media Manager named Lauren Bertolini, who would oversee a large fraction of the work of creating the future of the company, began her employment at Gawker Media.
Today is Lauren’s last day at Gizmodo Media Group, after six years of planning, building, and finally steering the Ship of Theseus that is Kinja. Over that time she has held at least seven different titles for at least four different organizations, but her role has mostly been the same: to enable people to tell their stories.
Over those six years, no one has given this confused crew more direction. Lauren has been the advocate for the creators and the commenters on Kinja, pushing tirelessly to make this the best, most sustainable place to write, read, watch, and discuss.
But despite her drive and dedication to the cause, or maybe because of it, Lauren has been a truly outstanding manager and colleague. Those of us who have worked for her and with her know her brilliance, her honesty, and her kindness.
Over the thousands of hours Lauren and I have worked together, I have never seen her take a shortcut in her relationships. I’ve never seen her lose composure or say something dishonest or irresponsible or unnecessarily cutting (despite many many many occasions where such a response would have been understandable). I have never seen her act vindictively when others underestimate or dismiss or deal dishonestly with her. She has been a steady hand, a role model, a source of good counsel, and a trusted friend who we knew would come through for us. And Lauren did come through for us, time and time again.
The reason I can link you to A.J.’s post above, of course, is that Gawker posts are still online. 189,377 of them, hosted precariously but defiantly. This is entirely due to Lauren (with a Herculean support effort from Ben and Claire, it must be noted). On an impossible timeline, through complex negotiations with new management, old management, the court, the administrator, a disheartened technical team, and lawyers and lawyers, Lauren delivered a solution to ensure that some of the web’s great writing persevered.
When Hamilton Nolan wrote his farewell to Gawker, he opened with this:
Wherever you go in this life, there is some jerk telling you what to do. Almost always. But not always.
If you are very lucky, you might find a place where you can do what you want. If you are very fortunate, you may one day find a place where you can be as inane, brilliant, cockeyed, or stupid as you wish, in front of the entire world. I found it at Gawker. I hope you find it somewhere at least once before you die.
Above this is an image of the Kinja editor, with an empty post. This is what Lauren gave those of us who worked here: a chance to show the world our inanity, our stupidity, and on rare occasion our brilliance.
Thank you, Lauren, for helping to making this the place that I always wanted to find. I’ll miss you terribly.
Jillian Schulz, Vice President, Media Operations:
Lauren isn’t a girl boss or a boss lady or a H.B.I.C. or any of the other reductive terms used to describe brilliant and powerful people who also happen to be women. But she certainly embodies those qualities and has shown me what it looks like to embrace them without apologizing and tell people no. No, we’re not putting 12 autoplay video players on the homepage. No, bolting on your shitty vendor is not a priority. And no, you can’t replace the “o’s” in the Gizmodo logo with Oreos.
She’s taught me how to be a champion of great journalism when you work on the other side of the fence and how to navigate messy politics with and without crying. She’s trusted me with far more than she should have and has pushed me beyond the confines of the Sales team. She’s also impressed upon me the importance of maintaining your shower grout. All are equally valuable.
I will miss her. RIP Gawker x 100.
Joel Johnson Former VP, Editorial of Gawker, current Principal at Special Circumstances:
Personally, I always liked her.
Margaret Taormina, Senior Product Manager:
I vividly remember the first time I met Lauren: she was interviewing me in the old 210 office, we were talking about fun, abstract ideas, and I distinctly decided she reminded me of a combination of Jennifer Lawrence (who is widely known as awesome) and my older cousin (who I adored as a kid). So it only makes sense that as time went on and she became my manager, mentor, and friend, I would end up adoring her too.
Everyone should also know that his is Lauren’s favorite song:
And that she’s part of an owl gang:
I’ll truly miss you, Lauren, but I’m excited to witness all of the amazing things that you’ll do! Good luck!
Ryan Brown, SVP of SVPs, Business Development at FMG:
I’ve spent almost five years on this roller coaster, and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend, colleague and partner in crime than Lauren to ride with. While we absolutely did not get along for the first year or two (angry stand offs in tiny conference rooms are so fun), our subtle friction paved the way for a powerful alliance that will pay dividends for years. I’ve learned a lot from Lauren’s patience and brilliance, and I’m proud of all the work she’s done at GawkGizFusModo Group. She’ll be sorely missed, and the smoothie place down the block might just run out of business too.
Alex Dickinson, Executive Managing Editor GMG
I once saw Lauren in the street in Brooklyn and she pretended not to see me. In her defense, I was wearing shorts and it was the end of winter, so my hairy white gams were probably blinding her. I walked up to her and said: “Hi! I’m doing laundry!” She said “Cool” and turned away. She will be missed.
Ernie Deeb, Senior Program Manager & Reigning Employee of the Month:
Lauren “Bad Cop” Bertolini is the rare bundle of ruthless efficiency and a kind heart. She’s one of the best, well-rounded people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, who will also make an excellent Bond villain some day. Lauren’s success can be summarized in a single Slack message:
Lauren was good. Thanks Lauren.
Veronica de Souza, Head of Audience & Social:
In the three-block walk to Juice Generation, Lauren is able to bring me from a 10 on the mad scale to a 5 or a 6. On the way back I’m calmer, I have a Smooth Strawberry™ in my hand, and I have some sort of plan to tackle the difficult situation that led me to slack her in all caps: “AM I INSANE OR IS THIS EXTREMELY FUCKED UP???” Lauren is an incredible leader and extremely good at all 100 of her jobs. I’m so grateful for the time we got to work (and talk about Everlane jeans) together. <3
Ben Regenspan, former Engineering Director at Gawker, current successful bathtub salesman:
Once, a former Gawker editor wrote to Lauren to say that he was sorry for giving the team a hard time over Kinja, having now seen the alternative at another publishing company. I think anyone who has worked with a team headed by Lauren is sure to feel similarly when going anywhere else. In a world where everything is broken, and where one is surrounded by connoisseurs of broken systems (developers and journalists alike), it’s easy to take for granted those who are able to make things as far from bad as possible. Lauren is such a person, and I am envious of those who get to work with her next, especially if they can do so in circumstances where their luck is better than that of the billionaires that they piss off.
I also think it’s cool that she briefly convinced the CEO of Aetna to support single-payer healthcare.
Erin Pettigrew, former Chief Strategy Officer at Gawker, current Product Manager at Facebook:
Lauren: What a ride it has been! I and others were lucky to work with you but even luckier to learn from you. Thank you for being a devoted champion of readers and writers, of course, but also of women and emerging talent. Looking forward to seeing you continue to push for all of these and much more in your next step.
Grace Robertson, Product Designer:
Lauren Bonding Story: That one time my new boss told me that “everyone” was going to Munich for the weekend while we were in Budapest for a month. Turns out everyone is my boss, the head of product, and Lauren. And the bosses didn’t like beer or german food, so Munich was a good choice.
Stephen Totilo, Editor-in-Chief, Kotaku.com:
Our company may have always put the brightest spotlight on writers and editors and may have been known for leaders like Nick Denton, but Lauren Bertolini was one of the best talents and best leaders Gawker Media and Gizmodo Media have ever had. She’s also one of the most inspirational success stories in Gawker’s history.
Lauren got her foot in the door at Gawker with a social media and talent-booking role that she soon left behind. She rose through the ranks to oversee the flourishing of our tech platform and eventually became our COO. Month after month, year after year, Lauren translated the language of editorial to tech and product and vice versa. She helped make Kinja something to proud of, something that’s a pleasure for our writers to use. It’s so exciting to see the platform adding great new features regularly. It wasn’t always like that around here, not for lack of trying, of course. But Lauren broke so many logjams and made so much of that happen.
I hope you thrive in your next role, Lauren. And if you have any spare moments in your last day here, please enable private messaging and manual comment-sorting on Kinja. I think everything else on my checklist has been taken care of. Thank you!
Allison Wentz, Manager, Data Engineering:
I am still in denial that Lauren is actually leaving us, and probably will be until she’s been gone for weeks and I finally have to concede that she’s not coming back. Lauren has been an inspiration to me as a leader, a woman, fellow coworker and practical Gawker lifer and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without her. Plus, I’ll miss all of our very important conversations around things like: what the hompeage looked like for some obscure 2 week period four years ago, if Taylor Swift or Kim Kardashian are feminists or not, and really anything related to the topic of ‘having curly hair’. Lauren is the absolute best person to have in your corner, and the Daily Beast is lucky to have her (even though I will harbor a quiet resentment towards them for the rest of my life for taking her away from us).
Kelly Monson, former Front-End Developer at Gawker, current part-time European:
Aaahhhhhhggghhhh I’m so bad at this
Susie Banikarim, Editorial Director, GMG:
Tom Plunkett, former Gawker CTO, current apartment therapist:
In 2013, there was a discussion or two (at least that’s how I remember it) about bringing Lauren onto the Gawker Media product team. She didn’t have a ton of “product” experience and would join a team that had recently launched the kinja platform. Would the timing be right to bring on someone with not a lot of immediately relevant experience. My being a selfish person, there was no question about it: Lauren had to be a part of the team.
I count her as a friend now, and was very lucky to have been her colleague. She is skilled, gets the big picture, doesn’t lose (or get lost in) the details, and brings a ton of enthusiasm and intelligence to the party. I could toss out more stuff but this should cover it: If I have the opportunity to make it happen, I want to be on the same team with her. Lauren is a star.
Katie Drummond, former Executive Managing Editor of GMG, current Executive Editor of The Outline:
Lauren is among the few — I mean “count them on one hand” few — people I look up to and aspire to be more like in my working life. She is smart as hell, she is diligent, she is good humored even under awful circumstances, she is humble, she is honest and upstanding, and she is an all-around pleasure to be around. I am jealous of anyone who gets to work with Lauren next, and I am crossing my fingers that I get to work with her again. The end.
John Cook, former Executive Editor of Gawker Media Group:
I was in a foxhole with Lauren for 18 months, and I will forever be grateful for her poise, grace, and dedication to the mission and people of Gawker Media. I’m cribbing this a bit from an internal goodbye note I sent when I learned that Lauren was leaving us.
In many media organizations, there’s a divide between the newsroom and the more traditional business components, but one of the things that made Gawker special was that it drew extremely talented people on the tech and business sides who cared about the editorial mission as much—and often more than—the reporter and editors. Lauren was always a true believer in the work of the newsroom, and she taught me that we all do that work together—that reporting and writing and editing and coding and development and testing are all crucial parts of the process of journalism today. Gawker was incredibly fortunate to have her, and the team that she built and led, working alongside us through thick and thin.
Lauren’s vision and diligence in creating the systems Gawker Media, and later Gizmodo Media, used internally and externally to produce their journalism was key to the development of the editorial voices and attitudes of all the sites—and her quick wits and hard work (along with some key members of her team) are responsible for continued if tenuous survival of Gawker.com in archival form on the internet.
She has done phenomenal work that helped change journalism, and held together a globe-spanning tech team through trying times. There’s no one here who has cared about this place and what it represents more than Lauren.