Ken Layne

Ken Layne is an American writer, publisher and broadcaster best known for his political blogging in the early 2000s and his association with Gawker Media and Wonkette from 2006 to 2012. He is the proprietor of Desert Oracle, a self-published periodical and radio program exploring themes related to the Mojave Desert and the Southwestern United States.

Ken Layne
Ken Layne.jpg
Ken Layne at 92YTribeca in New York.
  • Writer
  • publisher
  • broadcaster
Known forWonkette, Desert Oracle
Notable work
Dignity (2011)


Early careerEdit

After graduating from a San Diego, California magnet high school focused on broadcast journalism,[1] Layne began his career in the mid-1980s reporting for Southern California newspapers[2] before moving to Europe, where he worked for television, radio, and print journalism outlets in Macedonia,[3] the Czech Republic, and Hungary.[1] In the late 1990s, Layne returned to the United States[4] and turned to online journalism exclusively.[2]

In April 1997, Layne co-founded,[5] an online publication in the "brassy style of tabloid newspapers", with $50,000 in savings.[6] While unprofitable as a company,[5] attained notoriety as an "unabashed scandal-monger"[6] and for suing a Florida advertising company for appropriating its intellectual property, "a talking ham sandwich that gives advice".[4]

Layne's next venture was, co-founded in 2001 with future Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch, focused in part on criticism of Los Angeles' last remaining daily newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. The "Examiner" name was intended as homage to the defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. In early 2003, former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan announced his intentions to publish a full-color, 52-page, tabloid-format print edition called Los Angeles Examiner, with Layne as editor, intended to improve on the Times' local reporting.[7] A prototype was produced and circulated among potential investors and advertisers,[8] however the project was shelved after Riordan delayed its launch in May 2003.[9]

During this time period, Layne also received attention for blogging at his personal website,,[10][11] and became known in the early 2000s American political and technology blogosphere for a quote directed at the mainstream media: "We can fact-check your ass".[12][13][14] Another Layne project of the era was called Highways West, a travel website about the Western United States, announced in January 2005.[15][16]

Gawker Media and WonketteEdit

In April 2005, Layne joined with former Gawker editor Choire Sicha to launch Sploid, a Drudge Report-inspired,[17] "tabloid-emulating" website for Gawker Media,[18] devoted to breaking news.[17] He later became "national correspondent" for the flagship Gawker website.[19]

Layne became the West Coast writer for Gawker Media's "absurdist" and "vicious"[2] political humor site Wonkette in 2006, and later its managing editor.[18] Gawker owner Nick Denton spun off Wonkette in 2008, along with two other websites, and Layne became Wonkette's owner.[20]

In 2009, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann named Layne and Wonkette in his "Worst Person in the World" segment[2] for allegedly mischaracterizing a temporary absence from his television program.[21][22] In 2011, Wonkette faced media criticism and desertion by advertisers after a writer mocked Trig Palin, the child of 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who has Down syndrome. Layne deleted the post after several advertisers, including Papa John's Pizza, pulled their advertising from the site.[23][24]

Layne sold Wonkette to Los Angeles journalist Rebecca Schoenkopf in 2012.[18] Of his career writing for the Gawker Media sites, Layne said in 2018: "All of that I did from the desert, and no one knew".[1]

Desert OracleEdit

In February 2015, Layne created Desert Oracle: The Voice of the Desert,[19] a quarterly periodical focused on the "weirdness of the desert" in the Southwestern United States.[2] Each edition runs 44 pages, most of which is written and designed by Layne,[1] entirely in black-and-white, inside a yellow and black cover.[3] Typical content includes "adventurers' journal entries, railroad ad copy, and ... naturalists' musings", as well as stories on "alien sightings" and other paranormal phenomena.[3] Inspiration for Desert Oracle came from Randall Henderson's Desert Magazine[1] and Harry Oliver's Desert Rat Scrap Book.[19]

Published from Joshua Tree, California, Layne distributes the publications to bookstores and cafes across the desert southwest.[16] As of 2018, Desert Oracle is available in five states and reaches the majority of its readership[1] through the mail via paid subscription.[16] Layne has also collected Desert Oracle articles in book form, the first volume of which published in 2020.[25]

Desert Oracle became the basis of a weekly half-hour radio show, The Desert Oracle Radio, hosted by Layne for the community radio station KCDZ in June 2017.[16] With subject matter similar to the print version, Layne's radio show features "chilling tales of Bigfoot sightings, secret military UFO programs, missing hikers, and any number of myths and conspiracies" centered in the Mojave desert and the American Southwest.[1] The Desert Oracle Radio reaches Joshua Tree National Park and nearby towns including Pioneertown, Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley by terrestrial broadcast;[26] the show is also available as a podcast.[3]

Other writingEdit

Layne is the author of two novels, Dot.con, published in 2001,[27][28] and Dignity, an epistolary novel about a group of Los Angelenos creating a new community within abandoned desert housing developments following an economic collapse, in 2011.[29][30]

He formerly was a columnist for USC Annenberg School's Online Journalism Review,[31] and wrote a column called "Desert Rattler" for LA CityBeat, both now defunct.[16] Other writing by Layne has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Awl.[32]

Personal lifeEdit

Layne was born in Louisiana,[2] where he lived in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans as a child.[1] He moved to the Phoenix, Arizona suburbs[3] for middle school, and later to San Diego, where he first began visiting the Mojave desert.[2]

Layne records his own music,[1] and formerly played with Southern California rock musicians Country Dick Montana and Buddy Blue Seigal.[33]

He has cited Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey as an influence,[29] whom he met and corresponded with before Abbey's death in 1989.[1]

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Biller, Steven (9 April 2018). "Real Close — And Way Out". Palm Springs Life. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Netburn, Deborah (29 May 2015). "After leaving the political blogging fray, he now covers desert's quiet weirdness". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Genecov, Max (5 March 2018). "How Ken Layne Created a Publishing Oasis in a Desert Town of 8,000 People". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b Swartz, Jon (22 February 1999). "The Stars of Technology Sweeps Month". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b Yung, Katherine (15 February 1999). "Web firm sues local ad agency; Dispute centers on talking ham sandwich". Dallas Morning News.
  6. ^ a b Abate, Tom (18 March 1998). "New Bill on Tech Workers Is More Like a Legislative Gun". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  7. ^ "The Big Dick". The Economist. 6 February 2003. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  8. ^ Wood, Daniel B. (30 January 2003). "In L.A., a new tabloid from its ex-mayor". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  9. ^ Rutten, Tim (3 May 2003). "Riordan delays tabloid". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  10. ^ Gallagher, David (10 June 2002). "A Rift Among Bloggers". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  11. ^ Seipp, Catherine (June 2002). "Online Uprising". American Journalism Review.
  12. ^ Beato, Greg (20 September 2012). "Welcome to the Golden Age of Fact-Checking". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  13. ^ Craig Silverman (2007). Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press. Union Square Press. p. xxvi. ISBN 978-1402751530. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  14. ^ Scott Rosenberg (2009). Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters. Crown Books. pp. 151–152. ISBN 978-0307451361. Retrieved 26 April 2018. warblogs ken layne.
  15. ^ Roderick, Kevin (15 January 2005). "Layne's new gig". LA Observed. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d e Swann, Jennifer (15 November 2017). "A Zine That Leans Into the Mojave Desert's Weirdness Is Now a Spooky Podcast". LA Weekly. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  17. ^ a b Wallace-Wells, David (8 April 2005). "In Praise of Sploid". Slate. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  18. ^ a b c Roderick, Kevin (29 May 2015). "Ex-blogger Ken Layne has a desert magazine". LA Observed. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  19. ^ a b c Levy, Nicole (17 February 2015). "Ken Layne, Desert Oracle". Politico. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  20. ^ Fung, Amanda (14 April 2008). "No joke: Gawker selling three blogs". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  21. ^ "'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, May 13, 2009". Countdown with Keith Olbermann. 13 May 2009. MSNBC.
  22. ^ Sherman, Gabriel (14 May 2009). "Keith Olbermann's Ego Trumps the Truth". Gawker. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  23. ^ Byers, Dylan (21 April 2011). "Wonkette Deletes Controversial Trig Palin Post". AdWeek. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  24. ^ Dickson, Caitlin (20 April 2011). "Derek Hunter Attempts to Defund Wonkette by Boycott". Atlantic Wire. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  25. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Desert Oracle, Vol. 1". Publishers Weekly. 2020-10-05. Retrieved 2020-12-23.
  26. ^ Dailey, Keli (25 March 2018). "'Desert Oracle' sheds light on histories, mysteries of Mojave's allure". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  27. ^ "Dot.con / Ken Layne". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  28. ^ Koval, Ramona (28 July 2001). "Blokes Rule, Okay?". ABC Radio National. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  29. ^ a b Cage, Caleb (28 July 2011). "Populist Fatalism". The Rumpus. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  30. ^ Clarke, Chris (3 August 2011). "Ken Layne's Modest Utopia". KCET. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  31. ^ Barringer, Felicity (3 September 2001). "An Accusation of Online Plagiarism". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  32. ^ Painter, Alysia Gray (5 March 2016). "Desert Oracle: Love for Arid Expanses". NBC Los Angeles. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  33. ^ Lickona, Matthew (26 April 2017). "The Desert Oracle's Ken Layne". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 25 April 2018.

External linksEdit