SPJ AirPlay was a panel discussion held August 15 in Miami. The topic was GamerGate and ethics in journalism. This event was organized by a regional director for the Society of Professional Journalists, Michael Koretzky. For more details, you can head to the website. This post is a transcript of the first of two panels. I hope others find this as useful as I will.
I ask several things of those who use the transcript:
1) Please credit this work to Tim Daniels.
2) Please link to the original document.
3) If you are quoting the transcript, please verify the content with the corrected video (Thanks to Pixel Polish). The probability of error in transcription is high.
Fillers and other distortions were removed for clarity. Statements where I was unsure of their content have been labeled with a (?) symbol. Submit any corrections to @MavenACTG on Twitter.
Morning Panel Participants
Michael Koretzky, Society of Professional Journalists Regional Director and AirPlay Organizer
Allum Bokhari, Producer and Columnist for Breitbart
Mark Ceb, YouTube Video Commentator
Ashe Schow, Commentary Writer at Washington Examiner
Ren LaForme, Teacher at Poynter Institute
Lynn Walsh, Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Expert
Derek Smart, Independent Game Developer
The Morning Panel went live earlier than anticipated. Once the presentation issues were corrected, the event began.
Michael Koretzky: Welcome to AirPlay! This is the first live-streaming GamerGate debate. My name is Michael Koretzky. I am a national board member with the Society of Professional Journalists. If you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, go here... SPJAirPlay.com... and follow along.
AirPlay is a series of three debates. The first is the shortest and it's right now. We're going to attempt to answer this crucial question: What the hell is GamerGate, and why should I give a crap about it anyway? Here to make you give a crap about GamerGate is our panel. Representing GamerGate as chosen by GamerGate: Allum Bokhari, Ashe Schow, and Mark Ceb. And in true journalism fashion, we're going to give them thirty seconds to talk about their entire life. Allum.
Allum Bokhari: Uh, hello, I'm Allum Bokhari. Can you all hear me? Yes? Good. I'm a writer for Brietbart News, and I'm interested in GamerGate, sort of when it first arised because it seemed to me to shine a light on the growing tendency of new media... the Gawkers, the Voxes, and the Buzzfeeds of the day... to tend to engage in narrative over truth. And, also, the general growing hostility both among new media and on social media to dissent. And a great deal of uniformity of opinion.
Ashe Schow: I'm Ashe. I'm an opinion writer with the Washington Examiner. I've been a gamer my entire life. My parents are gamers. My brother is a gamer. I go home from work and I play video games. So, for me, the narrative was always very important. The way that gamers were being portrayed press and the way that the games media was treating games in general.
Mark Ceb: Hi, I'm Mark Ceb. I make videos on YouTube under the name ActionPoints and a lot of issues that gamers seem to care about I've been talking about for awhile over a couple years. So, it just kinda seemed apparent that I would fall into this discussion at some point. Uhm, yeah. There you go.
Koretzky: Alright. Representing Not GamerGate: two journalists. Ren LaForme and Lynn Walsh from two prominent journalist organizations, the Poynter Institute and SPJ. Plus, Derek Smart, an independent game developer who says he's neutral on GamerGate. Ren, let's start with you. Thirty seconds to talk about your life.
Ren LaForme: I don't even need thirty seconds. My name is Ren LaForme. I'm a producer at Poynter. We're a non-profit training school for journalists. Two years ago I think to the day we released this book, The New Ethics of Journalism, which has an updated Code of Ethics very similar to SPJ's. Ahm, I'm excited to get in to it. I'm excited to talk about ethics. Let's do this thing.
Lynn Walsh: I'm Lynn Walsh. I'm on the national board for the Society of Professional Journalists. I'm also on the ethics committee which we actually helped rewrite the Code of Ethics and its the Code of Ethics for SPJ, one of the most widely used by journal lists all over the world. I also am the Executive Producer at the investigative team at the NBC station in San Diego. Glad to be here.
Derek Smart: I'm Derek Smart. Some of you may or may not know who I am. You know what I do and you probably know why I am here. I've been a game developer for over thirty years and I love this industry. I love the gamers. And one of the main reasons I'm here is to make sure these people don't say or do anything that they shouldn't.
Koretzky: Wait, who are you pointing to? The journalists or the GamerGate people?
Koretzky: OK. Fair enough.
Koretzky: Alright, we're going to try something a little weird. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But, we're going to talk about what is GamerGate and I want to introduce.... This is Sharon Dunton. She is president of SPJ Georgia, which is a finalist for Chapter of the Year in SPJ. Uh, she's a journalist and a mother and she's actually here for the journalist conference that's going on next door. She knows nothing about GamerGate. So, she's both ignorant and intelligent, if you catch my drift.
So, I would love to try this. For three to five minutes, GamerGate panelists, can you explain what GamerGate is to Sharon and why she should give a damn about it. I'm actually going to hand her my mic because if she has some questions, she's a journalist. She'll interrupt you and ask them. So let's see what happens, and afterwards we're going to ask these guys what they thought about what happened.
Sharon Dunton: Hey Mark, do you want to start?
Sharon Dunton: Hello!
Mark: Alright, so you want to know what GamerGate is? OK. GamerGate is a hashtag that was used by gamers when they found out about a conflict of interest between a game journalist and a game developer. What makes this different from past incidents of potential conflicts of interest is that when people tried to discuss it, there was this concerted... not concerted, but a focused effort to paint this discussion as harassment. So it just, you know, Streisand Effect, it made things worse.
Sharon: So you're talking about exchanges between gamers that became uncomfortable for some people? Is that... is that correct?
Mark: Could you rephrase the question?
Sharon: Well, for example, gamers are having conversations between each other when they are playing games. Is that correct?
Mark: Well no, so...
Sharon: Or is this a whole different social media?
Mark: Kinda social media. OK, so, most of the communication happens online between Twitter, e-mails, articles, blogs, etc. And, as some of the other panelists might tell you, there's generally this view or attitude to sort of kinda an anti-consumer attitude within the games media. So, there's been little way for a dialog between the consumer or the audience and the journalists who cover the games. So, yeah, when they tried to open up.... When we tried to speak to them, it just was not happening.
Sharon: What do you mean by consumer?
Mark: Consumer, people who play games, gamer consumer. Whichever term you would like.
Sharon: OK. OK.
Mark: Did you want to add anything?
Ashe: Well, I want to go into, briefly, how it became deemed a harassment movement. There was the developer and the journalist that were dating. And, after the breakup, when there was a breakup article written, there were some trolls. This is the internet. There are trolls. It doesn't matter whether you were a gamer or a republican, whether you were a democrat, where you are, any group that you can belong to. There are trolls among that group because it's internet breeds... anonymity kinda breeds hostility you don't have to see.
So, after the breakup, there was something written, she did receive some harassment. And the media loves a harassment narrative, especially a harassment narrative against women. So they took that and they ran with that. And meanwhile, the bulk of gamers were really concerned about the conflict of interest. And so while they were trying to discuss this, the media was running with the harassment narrative. And then any gamer who was trying to discuss the ethics and the conflict of interest was being labeled a harassment.
So they created the hashtag so that they could try and discuss the conflict of interest and the ethics and it didn't... that's what they're trying to do, but in the media's eyes, it is still a harassment thing.
Sharon: What do you mean by the media?
Ashe: Well the games media especially and the broader media that would report on what the games media was reporting.
Sharon: OK. So, is GamerGate... is this all trying to rebrand what gamers are all about in this social media? Is it... is that what you're doing? You're trying to rebrand or tell people that this is okay and that there's not things going on that everyone thinks is going on?
Mark: I mean, no, not really. GamerGate, if you approach anyone who would say they support the ideas of GamerGate online, they'll be very open. They'll say as much as they can. Michael's commented before, you can't get them to shut up sometimes. It's not an idea of rebranding gamers. It's just the idea... we want our media to present a fair image. Whether it be something in favor of the developers, something that does right by them, or something that gives us the information that we hope would allow us to make good purchases or just understand our community niche better.
Allum: ...fair reporting. So, GamerGate began. It was just a discussion about a potential conflict of interest between a game developer and a journalist, Nathan Grayson of Kotaku. Instead of discussing this or reporting on it or engaging with their readers, games journalists decided to say all of these ethics allegations are a veil for misogyny and harassment of this female game developer.
At the same time, there was censorship of discussion happening on a range of online gaming communities, which very rarely happens. Or, it least, it very rarely happened back then. So, that's what really sort of blew up GamerGate. It was a combination of the harassment narrative which was labeled against all gamers and censorship of discussion.
Sharon: OK, and just one more question. Can you explain what trolls are?
Mark: Trolls are people on the internet getting a giggle out of you getting mad.
Koretzky: Alright, so, let me ask you a question, because I've known Sharon for awhile, so, I know she's smart. I know you guys. You know your stuff. What do you now get out of what they just said?
Sharon: Well, what I see is that it is a community that has conversations and they all have something in common which is gaming. And, there was some kind of breakdown between a relationship and it sort of went... hog wild and took on a life of its own. Am I correct?
Koretzky: Thank you.
Sharon: Thank you!
Koretzky: This kind of highlights the disconnect of how hard it is to explain something to a journalist in a short amount of time. So lemme ask the journalists: what did you learn from that exchange, or how would you tell Sharon something different?
Lynn: OK, so, when I... when we kinda do a story, we... you have to make a pitch. Every morning, every reporter comes in, you have to pitch your story. Try to break it down as easy as possible what the story would look like at the end. To me, GamerGate, as a hashtag, starting out explaining it like that, to me is confusing.
I think using hashtag in GamerGate is how people communicate? But I would tell the story this way: I think there are three main points. There are groups, there are a group of people that are all gamers. And, I think the conversation or the issue is that they have three issues. They have concern over harassment of gamers after they've covered certain issues or that a journalist covering has issues. You also have a concern over media coverage of gamers. Both in the gaming... gaming journalists but also outside media. It also sounds like then there are inside ethical concerns over how gamers are covering their industry. That's how I would tell that story, but....
Koretzky: Alright, hold on, let's explore that for a second....
Mark: When you say gamers, do you mean the games media? Or the people who play games? You said how, how the game, how gamers... you said the term gamers, and I'm trying to determine if you mean who play them or the people who write about them?
Lynn: I think you're talking about both. I think there are concerns about harassment by the people who are writing about it and the people who are involved in that breakup, in that situation as well. Sounds like.
Koretzky: Alright, alright, let me ask, so Lynn, you came into this knowing very little about GamerGate. On purpose, did not want to get too educated about it. Ren, you knew a little bit more about it going in. So, what's your... what's your thoughts on what you just saw?
Ren: Sure. Knowing what I know and... and hearing this, if I were you I'd still be really confused. I don't think we've begun to scratch the surface of what any of this is actually about. Back to your points. As a journalist, approaching this as a journalist because that's how I'm supposed to be approaching this, right? That's why I'm here.
So this was... this kind of sprung out of this blog post after this breakup. This guy said my ex-girlfriend was messing around with these people in the industry and it's unethical and all that. As a reporter, that's so much easier and it's something I can actually cover. But the idea that there's this hostility towards gamers and the gaming press and all this. Like, I don't even know how to begin to approach that as a reporter?
So, it seems really obvious to me that you can't really report on an idea. It's like saying, "There's corruption in government." That's not something you can launch a story from. That's just an idea. You need a specific example. And the example in this case is just this story of a relationship and, I think, it's really easy for me to see, at least, why, at the outset, it was painted as this harass--
Allum: It was initially a story about that relationship. It then became also a story about collusion when--or industry-wide corruption--when a mailing list containing the editors and journalists at some of the biggest gaming publications was leaked and the conversations were made public. That's when people decided to do a... started to question well, are games journalists coordinating too much?
Koretzky: Now that's going to be one of the ethical topics that I believe you guys are going to bring up. I want to ask Derek: you just heard all the GamerGate people and the journalists talk. How would you explain this to Sharon or how did you come to understand this?
Derek: Well, I'm going to give you the short version. These people are all writers. They're all journalists. They have a certain amount of training. I'm just a game developer.
Now, the very short version is this: when this whole thing started out, two people were in the relationship. It went bad. And, one of the people in that relationship got mad, went online, and wrote all this stuff. It's like, the cops... this is a very simple version... the cops come to your house, they get a call about a noise alert. They walk in and they find drugs. Now you're talking about the drugs. Nobody cares about the noise. That's what happened.
And, all of a sudden, because there was a journalist involved, and because this person was a game developer, the whole thing took on a life of its own. And it stopped being about a private matter. It started being about something, to some people, relevant enough to make a lot of noise about.
Unfortunately, as these things go, there's one version... it's like an octopus. There's one version, and then somebody makes something else out of it, and then something else... somebody'll make something else out of it, and the next thing, you have ten different versions. And, by the time you try to find out which of these ten versions is true, the one that has the most... the one that people promote, that has the most relevance in terms of how much noise it makes, and how much it casts people in the poor light...
Nobody cares about all the good stuff these days. It's all about the bad stuff. Bad stuff has more traffic online than anything else. So once the bad stuff came to the top, that's it. They just went on about harassment and misogyny and all this stuff that was clearly nothing to do with the whole thing to begin with.
Koretzky: I am sure that cleared it up for everybody.
Mark: I get it.
Allum: One thing... one thing I'd like to add to that. We're focusing a lot on this one example, which sort of helped spark GamerGate. But what has to be understood is it was a sort of catalyst for long-running discontent with standards in the games media. There was a whole range of scandals for years leading up to GamerGate. That sort of built up resentment amongst gamers against the gaming press and build up concerns about ethical standards. So, it was, yes, the case was important, but it was also sort of the straw that broke the camel's back after a long range of scandals.
Koretzky: So what we're going to do... in the afternoon debate that starts at one o'clock after lunch, we're going to be diving deeper into what is GamerGate. Because the afternoon panelists... same on this side, different on that side... are going to talk about how to cover online controversies, and part of that is how you define it. And I know from three months of dealing with GamerGate on Twitter, that Ren, there's probably a lot of tweets right now saying "You're an idiot cause it's your job, it's your moral obligation, it's your god-given duty to cover us."
Ren: I hear the chat's really great.
Koretzky: So, in the afternoon... this is my little tease. We're going to dive into that topic. For now, I want to talk about: is the gaming press ethical? So, these guys, the GamerGate panelists, we ask them to come up with five case studies. Five examples of what they say are unethical practices by the gaming press.
We're going to break those down with these guys. First, a little warning, and I've gotten a lot of tweets and e-mails about this. This is not an Oxford debate. There's no script. I'm not a broadcaster. This is not CNN. We're just having a conversation here.
So, our goal with this is threefold. First, GamerGate is going to outline their examples. We're going to find out from these guys, who are ethics experts, if it's even a violation at all. Second, if it is a violation, is it a high crime or just a misdemeanor? And third, we want to have enough time at the end so that we can talk about how to fix things, how to make a good gaming press better, or a bad gaming press good, depending on your outlook on life.
Alright, so, let's get started. You guys submitted five examples, you guys got those about a week ago. We're told not to incredibly study it but to familiarize yourselves with it. Because the goal here is still to talk about this stuff for mainstream journalists and their readers. This is not for GamerGate. This is not for GamerGate critics. So who wants to start on GamerGate and outline, as simply as possible, case study number one.
Ashe: Well I cannot guarantee it will be succinctly, but I will start. So I would think that beyond gaming journalism, most everyone here and anyone watching remembers the fallout of the Rolling Stones gang rape article from last November. The Poynter Institute actually named it the Error of the Year. Part of the problem was that Rolling Stone relied on the account of a single source who told this dramatic story of a gang rape. Rolling Stone didn't end up interviewing anybody else involved, getting the other side of the story, trying to even verify that supposed rapist even existed. So the whole story fell apart.
In games journalism, especially with the growing fallback and acceptance of this gamers are misogynists who hate women and men in the tech industry are just out there hating on women and harassing women and raping women. It's just this women are just such victims now. That same sort of Rolling Stone lax of ethics that led to that story falling apart has been occurring in games media.
So the first example I want to give is of Max Temkin, who, not a video game, played Cards Against Humanity, which we all play every time we're drunk because it's an awesome game and it's hilarious and it's fun. So, all of a sudden, Temkin gets accused of having raped a woman eight years previously in college. She makes this accusation on Facebook. She doesn't go into any kind of detail. She just says "You guys have been sharing his work and he's my rapist."
And that's all she says. She doesn't give any details whatsoever. Well, games media runs with this as "Max Temkin accused of rape." The Kotaku article... no, it was a Jezebel article... that wrote about it, the headline was "Cards Against Humanity Creator Faces Sexual Assault Accusations." It said accusations. It was a single accusation on Facebook, which already breaks the SPJ Ethic to not mislead in a headline.
So they just run with this story despite there being absolutely no evidence of this having occurred. Now, to be fair, there's no evidence it didn't occur, but the onus is on the accuser in these cases to prove that something actually happened. But despite that nobody tried to actually interview her, or to interview any witnesses, or to even really talk to Temkin about it.
He even stated a defense on his own blog saying "No, this is totally, patently false." Not only did he assert his innocence, but he also acknowledged that maybe he hurt her back then because they apparently just talked and made out a couple times. Then he never called her back. He just stopped talking to her and answering her texts. So, maybe that hurt her.
But, what happens is people on tumblr start saying he's a rapist, and he's this awful person, and guaranteeing that she is a victim despite no evidence of this. Then you have the Jezebel article that actually says he's facing accusations, as if he's Bill Cosby with multiple women coming out when really it was only one.
Then you have a Kotaku writer, Patricia Hernandez, which will be discussed by Mark later as far as conflict of interest. But you have Patricia Hernandez on Kotaku who comes out and saying that he responded the wrong way. Where as basically saying he shouldn't have defended himself. He should have been talking about consent and the broader discussion of consent.
That article created such a backlash that Kotaku's Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Totillo, made a comment on it about "It's one of the worst misfires on the site since he's been Editor-in-Chief. Patricia had a good intent with writing that article. But she kinda went the wrong way with it. Of course Temkin should have defended himself." So Patricia Hernandez ends up rewriting the article, but it's really not that much better. It's still about what he should have talked about while he was defending himself, which is to basically take responsibility for his crime.
Mark: Just to jump in real fast. Basically it's an assumption of guilt.
Ashe: Right. Guilty until proven innocent, and he'll never be proven innocent. He'll never be proven guilty, but people don't really care about that. You then have a month after this... the New York Times writes a favorable article about Temkin. Gawker comes out saying "Remember when the Cards Against Humanity guy was accused of rape?" And they're upset because the New York Times wrote about Temkin but didn't include the accusation. Because, again, there's no evidence that occurred, and it was a single Facebook post.
Koretzky: This is about Gawker now?
Ashe: At this point, yeah, most of these examples do involve Gawker.
Koretzky: Just to be clear on this something. Lynn Walsh, what's your opinion on the journalistic value of Gawker?
Lynn: I would never quote them or cite them.
Ren: Yeah, they've done some really great work. Like the Manti Te'o story was amazing. There are a few other cases like this. As far as journalistic integrity goes, maybe not the highest out there.
Ashe: Right. But Gawker itself, but then Kotaku has like, what, twelve million monthly views?
Mark: Twelve million monthly viewers.
Ashe: Right. So Kotaku as far as games journalism... it is a site that people go to and it is a site that gets a lot of traffic, so, yeah, you might--
Koretzky: I guess my question is this: you gave out a very long and passionately detailed case study, but I'm wondering... because it has so many moving parts, how much of this have you guys digested? Or do you want to ask questions directly to them to get to the bottom of this?
Derek: I just want to say one thing. When we're talking about something really serious, and you bring up Gawker, that's like bringing up Fox News when you're talking about serious news discussion. They're different kinds of sites that write different things, and they all have different standards.
Now what people tend to forget is that all these people are people. You can (?) hold someone to a different standard, if you want to hold somebody else--
Koretzky: Hold on, let me ask a question, because Ashe also mentioned Kotaku is, for those who don't know, a very large gaming website run by a guy I've had several conversations with who is a Columbia journalism grad. For a game developer, how legit is Kotaku to you?
Derek: They're pretty legit to me. Again, everybody holds the New York Times in highest esteem and a whole bunch of other publications. Again, a lot of times a different stories that ring true with some people and some hit or miss. But there are more hits than misses.
So, Kotaku, Gawker, all these are media outlets, they're all owned by people, and these are all people who have different personalities. They have different beliefs. They have different aspirations. So, it all depends on who's right and what and when and how that goes. So, whether it's Gawker or Kotaku or the New York Times, I think people need to look more about the people who are writing these pieces as opposed to the platform they're using to send those pieces out.
Allum: Isn't it the job of the publication, though, to impose some level of standards on the writers to make sure that accurate reporting happens?
Koretzky: First, before we get into that, I want to get a clear understanding of this example. We're talking about the creator of Cards Against Humanity and you are specifically... can we cite one part of this? Can we cite Kotaku? We are talking about gaming press. So, if you were going to give me the bullet (?) about your concerns on ethics in the Kotaku version of this story, what would you tell Ren, Lynn, and Derek?
Any of you guys? How would you congeal this to the essence of the ethical problem you have with it?
Mark: It didn't minimize harm. They have a tremendous outreach and they ran an accusation and did very little to--
Koretzky: Give me... what exactly did Kotaku do that you think is wrong so that these guys can respond to it? Give me a couple of sentences just about Kotaku.
Ashe; Well, I mean, just Kotaku to say that he responded wrong. His defense was wrong. He should have just accepted that he did something wrong, and then talk about consent, or whatever Kotaku felt he should talk about, rather than him actually defending himself.
Koretzky: What do you guys think? Ren or Lynn? Do you understand what's going on? Do you have questions to ask them?
Lynn: So are you wondering if we believe that that specific article by Kotaku was ethical in their reporting? Is that kinda the question?
Ashe: Right, well, any of these. The Jezebel one as well, or reporting on this in general, because...
Koretzky: We want to stick to gaming press for this section, so I think... is Kotaku the one you have that is gaming press related?
Ashe: Uh, sure. Yes.
Koretzky: Okay, and that's fair...
Koretzky: ...because that's one of the biggest gaming sites out there if not the biggest, correct?
Ashe: Yeah, it's pretty big.
Kortezky: OK. So....
Derek: Hang on. Hang on a second. I think we're missing something very important here. Now, every publication has an EiC who, I hope, gets to read these articles before they run. In the case of the Kotaku one, it ran. Somebody had to of vetted it. Then, it had a huge fallout. Then, they went back and said, this is all happening, maybe we should... there's something here.
So Stephen goes out and says rewrite it. I refuse to believe any of these publications allow these articles to go online without them being vetted, because...
Derek: ...if that's the case, then it's a whole different problem.
Ashe: No, exactly, this is a case, like [indecipherable] the Rolling Stone article. You had an editor. You had a bunch of editors and fact checkers who all looked at it, and then, for whatever reason, decided to run with it anyway.
Totillo actually said that he had edited it really quickly while he was on the way out somewhere else. And he... this is exactly what he said. "I edited this story in a rush and have regretted it ever since."
Koretzky: Ok, so hold on. This is a case...
Allum: [indecipherable]...a story about a rape accusation in a rush probably not a good idea for a journalist.
Koretzky: Alright, let's just set the ground rules because we have... this is the problem. This goes back to everything. How are we going to communicate [indecipherable] to the journalists? I'm hoping that this whole exercise teaches journalists about GamerGate but I'm also hoping it teaches GamerGate how to talk to journalists. I've had that conversation online and people say "Journalists should do it this way." Well...
Mark: Don't use Twitter, Koretzky.
Koretzky: I know, I shouldn't use Twitter.
Mark: Just don't.
Koretzky: It's a hashtag, pal. So, the point is...
Mark: No filter.
Koretzky: ...here is a situation I want to ask Ren and Lynn. You have an editor who admits there was a mistake made, but this is not a situation where they're doubling down and battening down the hatches.
So the question now is: given this example, and these guys had copies of that particular story, what's supposed to happen after something like that? There is a mistake made because... all sides of it, there was a mistake, right? Because in journalism, if both sides agree on something, I can definitely claim that to be the case.
You have GamerGate saying that's a mistake. You have the editor of Kotaku saying that's a mistake. What's supposed to happen next?
Lynn: The first thing I will say is, unlike someone who is a lawyer or a teacher, journalists aren't licensed. I will bring that up. SPJ does not license the journalists. It's guidelines. We are here as a resource, pointers, same thing. No one is handing out licenses. So, if someone does write something that's poor, they don't get their license taken away.
They may never get a job again because, in this industry, everything is based on your reputation and people believing that what you're writing is ethical, accurate, and true.
So, what is supposed to happen... I want to kind of clarify that... if it was me, if it was my team, a correction would absolutely happen as fast as possible. When we do corrections, we do it... so if something airs in the six o'clock news, we would then air it in the six o'clock news. If it aired in the morning show, it would air again in the morning show. On the web, there would be a correction.
We have a policy where we do not take things down though. We will correct things and we will say there was a correction, and the link to the earlier article will remain. But again, that's our... where I work and other places I've worked, we have our standards, and everyone is taught those standards. The editors are responsible for upholding those standards. If you don't, there are repercussions.
Koretzky: So let me ask about this, because this is the interesting part, at least personally to me. This story went up. It was wrong, and then the editor apologized. But when did the editor apologize? How long after the article went up? Because Lynn is pointing out is what a lot of mainstream publications have is a corrections policy.
Ren, tell us a little about how corrections policies work at newspapers.
Ren: I don't know! They work...
Koretzky: Your ethics codes... your own ethics code... what does it say about correcting mistakes, and how quickly you're supposed to do it?
Ren: I don't know if there's anything specific about correcting mistakes, but, in this case, if you go back and look at those articles, it's heavily footnoted right at the top. This article has been corrected. There was incorrect information.
The problem with corrections on the internet is that stuff gets disseminated, and then when you have a correction, it's really hard get that correction to go as far as the original information did. It's just not something that's going to happen.
In a print publication you can put that correction right where the story was originally, and maybe the next day people see it, that's what you hope. And you get that out there. Once something's out on the internet, it's out on the internet. It's staying there forever.
Mark: If I may just jump in. Just to give context to it. The thing is, Patricia Hernandez has this habit of writing these kinds of articles... these sort of opinion pieces that don't really seem unfair.
Koretzky: Isn't she an example... one of your future examples?
Mark: She is.
Koretzky: I guess I want to wrap up this example with some lesson. So my question is....
Lynn: Yeah yeah.
Koretzky: Yeah. we're going to talk about opinion writing. But my question is this: how did Kotaku correct the mistake? Did they, like Lynn's shop, correct it on their own immediately, or did it require some blowback, and it was corrected....
Ashe: It was a blowback, and then days later she rewrote the article, and there was... You can go find both. They are still... the original is still up there, and Totillo did include an editor's note at the bottom. But, again, it took days and it took a backlash from...
Ashe: ...the internet.
Koretzky: So that's interesting. I can see Lynn nodding her head because that's not how it works in other mainstream media.
Lynn: I like to think... look, as a journalist, you never want to make a mistake. Whether it's a correction, I mean, that is like my number one thing. I never want to correct something. I don't even want to clarify something. That, for me, hurts me personally. It hurts my team. It hurts everyone involved. If it doesn't, journalism should maybe not be your field.
That said, that's why I'd like to think if we do do the... if we do make a mistake, we immediately try to do what we can to correct it to make it truthful. An apology sometimes might be in order. [indecipherable] ...those are things you talk about with your team depending on how far it goes. Sometimes lawyers are involved. What do we say? Those kind of things.
But, I'd like to think that the public would be forgiving if you do correct it, make the mistake, admit that it was wrong, and give them the correct information.
Koretzky: So basically, though, what I'm hearing is that there didn't seem to be... maybe there is now... but there didn't seem to be a policy in the gaming press similar to what you have at your station, which is: investigate any claim of a mistake, correct it immediately at the top, and then explain and apologize. Does that seem like the way it happened, or did it not happen in this particular case?
Ashe: It did not happen. It did not happen that way. It took days. It took a backlash. And even then people are still... because of the way it was reported initially, because of the guilty until proven innocent narrative.... I mean, Temkin was just uninvited from a festival, and [indecipherable] every time he got invited, people are like "Why would you invite a rapist?" There's no evidence that this happened. It's just a Facebook post.
Koretzky: You're telling me this story... I mean, I know, but I'm playing devil's advocate here.... So the story was rewritten, but there was no correction at the top?
Ashe: Well, no, there wasn't a correction in her original article, there was an editor's... at the bottom.
Koretzky: At the bottom.
Ashe: These articles... these corrections... they never included anything that was like okay, guys, this is one allegation. It is a Face--but take it for what it is. There's just this whole acceptance that this Facebook post was on the record fact.
Ashe: There is no... it was just credulously accepted.
Allum: Another point I want to make because Lynn you mentioned being forgiving after they correct their mistake. I think gamers are less inclined to be forgiving to Kotaku because it was part of the Gawker media network, which then went on to report the case again and again poorly.
Koretzky: OK, I want to get to Ren, but let me ask you a question Allum. If Kotaku and other gaming media outlets that have angered GamerGate did what Lynn said consistently... because you're going to make mistakes, we're all human beings, and journalists are going to write the first
Mark: Yes, I know what you're asking. Yes.
Ashe: Yes, I would be....
Allum: I can exp--are you saying if they corrected all their mistakes, apologized for their past mistakes, would gamers be forgiving?
Kortezky: Right. Because I will tell you this. I had a conversation with Stephen Totillo and I asked him to give me on the... he didn't want to be here. I asked him to give me, on the record, responses to your GamerGate's five examples. Because Kotaku is kinda woven throughout those.
He basically said no. Without violating any confidence... I don't think I am by saying... that he feels that this environment has gotten so toxic, that even when he does issue a correction, no one will believe him and it's gotten so bad.
Koretzky: I'm not asking you to judge that, but what I am saying is if it happened like Lynn said, could Kotaku get... lower the volume for future mistakes and [indecipherable]... how many times do they have to do that before...
Koretzky: ...it would be...
Ashe: Until they stop having to do it for every article.
Allum: Yes, see what I think Stephen is trying to say is nothing Kotaku can do at this point would win back its trust with gamers. And I had thought similar things (?). No point having a dialog with gamers, they'll hate us anyway, etc. etc. This is what I hear from some games journalists.
But there is... that would be a persuasive argument given the level of distrust that gamers have for the games media, but there is one example where a games news site did change their ethics policy, did apologize for past mistakes, did up the quality of their reporting, and managed to win back trust with gamers. That site is called the Escapist. The Escapist Magazine, at the start of...
Koretzky: Golf claps all around, okay. So, I want to get to Ren in a second, but I want to make sure we get to this point. Tell me... first of all, I need to say this. Kotaku is still very large, so they must have some readership or they wouldn't have jobs. So, someone is reading them. They're doing something right. My question to you is for those who don't like Kotaku, if they adopted Lynn's policy, how long do you think it would take for that to sink in to their biggest critics?
Mark: Can I get in on that? OK, so I would say yes, but with the stipulation that it would take time. Some people are going to be more forgiving. Some will not be so willing to trust them after for, I don't know, five or more years of being branded as some sort of untouchable. That's what they've done. Most of the people at Kotaku have done that.
But I want to add another example to the one we're saying (?). It's not even a matter of a website. It can be an individual. Ian Miles Cheong of Gameranx had a very similar way of writing, sort of approaching his audience. He made apologies. He's begun to see the other side of the story. GamerGate has been surprisingly acceptful. I'm still a little cautious.
Koretzky: Are they accepting because he's suddenly agreeing with them? Or because he's just doing journalism differently?
Mark: Because he's recanted his mistakes and... he's under... [indecipherable]
Ashe: Right. Well, that is the thing. It is not enough to just... alright, we made a mistake and let's correct it. Right? That would be very forgiving, but there also has to be a clear idea that they are going to try and make less mistakes. Because it's not enough to be like, oh, we'll just throw out an accusation and we'll run a correction later. That's not... that's obviously not going to gain any trust back. You have to... you have to do everything in your power to not need a correction in the first place.
Allum: And another thing. If I have to give some advice to Kotaku, I wouldn't just apologize for particular examples. I would apologize for the general trend between, say, 2012 and 2014 where these stories are for (?)... rape accusations and misogyny.
Allum: Which were systemic problems not just in the gaming press but across the entire press. I mean, Rolling Stone didn't occur in a vacuum.
Koretzky: Alright, well, Ren, you were looking like you wanted to say something, and I....
Allum: Sorry Ren.
Ren: We spent a half-hour talking about ethics in journalism and Gawker in the s... what? Like, these are the guys who are getting sued for everything they own for publishing Hulk Hogan's sex tape. It's like we're having a gourmet food conversation but talking about Easy Mac 'N Cheese.
This is just... to me this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. These guys come from this tabloid tradition. They're not actually... I mean, Nick Denton, publisher of Gawker, just like two weeks ago said, "OK, maybe we should think about ethics." And half the staff left. I can't believe I....
Allum: Well surely you can understand why gamers are upset to have Gawker come into their industry and start covering it.
Ren: Sure, but if we're talking about journalism ethics, I'm not sure why we're talking about Gawker.
Mark: I can tell you why Ren, and it's because unfortunately, and I unfortunately because they're large... OK, but this gets into my other topic, you guys... it seems mainstream media doesn't... well, [indecipherable] Airplay, doesn't know how to approach games. So you rely on the games media to fill your beat. Even though, as you say, it is ridiculous we're talking about Gawker, you rely on them. They're giving you bad information. In the case of the New York Times, they're giving you bad information, and then it's in printing this information which makes people even more distrustful of journalists.
So while I'm sorry it is ridiculous, it has to be done. The information keeps...[indecipherable]
Ren: It sounds like the mainstream media did a pretty good earlier when you said that the New York Times talked about Cards Against Humanity without mentioning the claim. Sounds like...
Mark: Well that's... [indecipherable]
Ren: ...mainstream media is pretty fine to me.
Allum: That was one case, but in other cases mainstream media has sort of followed what Gawker has said. Well, not just Gawker, but a number of other games journalists.
Koretzky: Can I interrupt for just one sec? You realize we've been talking about one...
Allum: I know, I know.
Koretzky: ...of your five examples, and I was hoping to get to three. I want you guys to keep talking and wrap this up, but I would like... we have some volunteers in the audience. I would like to hear from one person in the audience. Talk to our volunteers, and I would like to hear your impressions of what's going on so far.
Ren, do you want to... one thing to realize is that Gawker and Kotaku... there may be an ownership connection there, and I have been on interviews with GamerGate. I think Kotaku has done some good journalism.
Ren: I think Gawker has done...
Mark: I agree.
Ren: ...some good journalism, but this to me is a subject of media literacy. You have to know what you're looking at. You have to know if you can trust it or not. Consumers of journalism have to be educated on what they're looking at. I don't think in a lot of places that's the case.
Koretzky: To me, let's ask this question, because I'm trying to come to a solution to this problem. Not that it's going to be lions laying down with lambs and everything's going to be great. But, it seems like one thing that could happen... SPJ, Poynter Institute, whatever, could actually talk to gaming media outlets and try to get them to institute a standard correction policy.
Now, it sounds like Mark, you're saying it might take years for a majority of GamerGate...
Mark: ...no, no, no, not a majority. I said some.
Koretzky: OK, fair enough.
Mark: If they're like myself, and they've seen this for at least a decade, then yeah, I'd say they have a right to be wary. But, you know, some, some. I don't want to try and speak for everyone.
Koretzky: Alright, so... Lynn, if we had a standard correction policy for these gaming outlets, do you think that might... not solve the problem, but lower the volume?
Lynn: Well, that's what I was going to say. While yes it might be Gawker, they still have a great reach. And while I like to think my mother knows the difference of what (?) link is being shared, and I love my mother, I'm not sure that everyone does. So it's very, very important, I think, that if you're writing online... that if you're doing anything, blogging, or whatever, that you do have... your own ethics code, you're looking at a professional ethics code and adopting those to act appropriately. Agencies should have that too. Organizations should have that too.
And someone like SPJ, not to speak on their behalf or Poynter, but I'm sure if Gawker approached one of us and said "Hey, we need help developing standards," for ethics, for correction policies, or anything like that, someone would agree and say, "Sure, we will help you based on our codes develop something for your organization."
Ashe: Right, and I don't think we can just say, Oh, it's Gawker, forget it. We know that Gawker has problems, so we can't just ignore them when they do have what, billions, I think, of monthly page views? They reach a huge audience. So, yes, they need...
Mark: Twelve million. Twelve million.
Ashe: Well that's Kotaku specific, but Gawker in general...
Ashe: ...needs reform and it's not gonna come from the top. It has to be that grassroots.
Allum: I don't think it's even if it's loads of people think they're crap and you have experts and journalist ethics experts (?) think they're crap. Their stories still do real damage to real people. Temkin is just one of the examples.
Derek: I want just say one thing about, collectively, what everyone has said. It's about people who write these articles. Now, it's easy enough to take one or two articles and say Kotaku or Gawker media have done this, that, and the other. But you have to look at the people who write these articles, first and foremost, and forget about the platform they're using.
I'll give an example. This is probably going to be a very popular one. Nathan Grayson is a very good gaming writer. I've followed his work for a very long time. He wasn't originally at Kotaku. He came from another publication, RPS (Rock, Paper, Shotgun), and people still read his work.
Now, if we're going... if we're saying that, well, this is all about Kotaku or Gawker or Fox News or what not... what we're automatically doing is tainting the people who really do the good work at those publications.
So what I think everyone needs to look at is it's not really about what they're writing or how they're writing it, but it's about the people who are writing it, what training those people have, and the people who are responsible for them. The EiC, the people who vet all this work. They're the ones the spotlight should be on, because if they don't tow the line and they don't set these standards, then those writers, no matter how good they are, have free reign. And that's been going on for a very, very long time. Because they don't know any better, it continues.
Ashe: Right, and that's obviously what this is about, which is maybe you just haven't learned this. This is a learning experience. This is how you fix it. A lot of these game journalists do need to understand especially the amount of damage they can do to peoples' lives.
Temkin now, whenever there is an article written about him that's maybe not in the New York Times, but whenever it's a game journalist, they say he's an accused rapist. You've got this whole Twitter campaign who knows him or just refers to him as a rapist. You want to see some real world, we need to look at Brad Wardell....
Koretzky: Brad Wardell is our next example, right?
Ashe: Well yeah, I might do quick because they have different types of examples.
Koretzky: OK, well because here's the thing.
Mark: [indecipherable] Ashe.
Koretzky: It's almost eleven. I want to get one comment from an audience member and I want to move on.
Allum: [indecipherable] Brad Wardell [indecipherable].
Koretzky: Alright, so...identify yourself any way you want and say whatever you want. Briefly.
Paulo Munoz: My name is Paulo Munoz. I'm known as Game Diviner on Youtube and on Twitter. I want to make one comment, especially to Mr. Ren LaForme. I know you put Kotaku and ethics in one sentence as a mockery of what Gawker is, but I want to remind you of one thing.
Gawker destroys lives. There is a big reason why many of us in GamerGate are anonymous. Because Gawker will destroy people. Take the example of Justine Scavo. I believe her last name is that.
Allum: Justine Sacco.
Paulo: Sacco. She was one woman who made one wrong tweet and the man who destroyed her life, Sam Biddle. And we are facing them. Nick Denton himself has said we have cost him three... seven figures of money on advertising revenue.
Do you think anyone here wants to put our face to that when Gawker is willing to put out hundreds of people's... private citizens' addresses because they own a gun in New York City? We are scared to put our faces out here and people here who are GamerGate are putting their faces out here because we believe in this.
This is Gawker's power. Gawker is not just unethical. Gawker is willing to destroy private people's lives. By putting my face here, I put my family in danger. But I'm willing to be here because I believe in gamers. I believe they are good people and I believe we have been mislabeled this entire time. So please do not dismiss this by saying Gawker should not be ethical. So thank you very much, Mr. LaForme, for being here.
Ren: Thank you for standing up and saying that. Clearly...
[Audience]: Paulo (?) we love you!
Ren: I'm not saying that Gawker is not a thing that has some power and sway. I think they should be held to a higher standard. And if they want to get some help with ethics, I'm sure that Poynter or SPJ would love to help them. I mean, honestly
Mark: Excuse me, really quick [indecipherable]. I actually don't mind if Gawker wants to write horrible things, if Kotaku wants to write horrible things. It's the fact that they have that reach. If you want to say they're not accountable, then we need to make sure the people who spread the information, the people who are at the New Yorker, are the ones who will uphold that higher standard.
Allum: [indecipherable] First Gawker can improve their standards or people can just stop believing them. Either way will work.
Koretzky: One more comment. This one is from a recent journalism graduate.
[Anonymous]: Hi, I have a question actually. It sounds to me, obviously, that Max Temkin-type coverage isn't exclusive to Gawker, and it's not the first time Gawker has unfairly scrutinized someone. But I don't feel like this problem is exclusive to gamers either. Sounds like people of all industries are unfairly scrutinized by certain media outlets like you pointed out. Others don't. So....
Ashe: No, you're absolutely right. I mean, there is this narrative and this specific example goes into the narrative of women as victims. I guess you could almost call it rape journalism when it comes to the Rolling Stone style. So yes, that is a much broader issue of games journalism and journalism as whole. We'll have some other examples that are much more game specific.
[Anonymous]: Are there certain elements of it that make it... it's more unfairly... I mean, that there's more unfair coverage towards gamers? What elements of it make it different from every other person that's been scrutinized?
Allum: Well I think it's because gamers have sort of [indecipherable] up against these type of narratives. They're the first large group to do it. So a lot of the journalists and commentators who have bought into the narrative already decided that, well, ok, we're going to smear these guys as misogynists and bigots and harassers and so on.
Ashe: Well also in our other examples why it's different is... he'll (Mark) get into this... but the issue of developers and colluding with journalists for favorable coverage.
Mark: Publisher pressure on the AAA scale and then cronyism within the [indecipherable].
Ashe: Right. Which is...
Mark: It sounded crazy and weird and I'm sorry. If we get the time...
Ashe: I'm sure it happens in regular journalism, but it would be like... so I cover a politics... so it would be like me dating or having a best friend in a senator's office and then doing constant favorable coverage of that senator. You don't do that in regular journalism, but that's what's happening in games journalism.
[Anonymous]: That was a great answer. Thank you.
Mark: Thank you for the question.
Koretzky: I think we have an example of that if we can actually succinctly get to it because I want to get through at least three of our five examples. Can we get another example succinctly and actually spin off more conversation from it?
Mark: If it's me, yeah, I can get it off fast. Which one do you want?
Koretzky: Oh really? The gauntlet has been thrown down.
Koretzky: Well let's hear it.
Mark: Which one do you want? Do you want... OK, so I guess we just mentioned Patricia Hernandez. So, in the case of Patricia... before I go on further, I just want to say... not making a liar of myself, I said succinct.
Koretzky: I know.
Mark: Kotaku has done good journalism before way back then when they were large enough and the industry would try and black ball them because they wouldn't do things they wanted. They would stand up against that.
But it's of recent that they've started to do these shady things. But anyway, Patricia Hernandez wrote six pieces that were favorable to an independent developer.
Koretzky: Of what developer?
Mark: An independent developer. An independent developer is someone who makes games without the financial support of a large company. Like a...
Koretzky: That would be like Derek.
Koretzky: Doesn't have a huge corporate board behind them...
Mark: He's a free artist. He has vision.
Mark: He's not restricted.
Koretzky: Just to be clear. In the gaming culture, what are the status of indie game developers? Are they considered...
Koretzky: ...minor league or like heroes or whatever?
Mark: Well, it's... as Derek will probably tell you... it's kinda both. Recently, indies have gotten a lot of attention. But there's a lot of people who've been working at it for a long time and just don't seem to get any spotlight. That's really mainly because of these conflicts of interest. There's a sort of self-interest that these journalists have with various independent developers. So, back to the example....
Koretzky: I have a feeling that Derek is going to have an opinion on this one.
Mark: Oh, no, I would love to hear it. I'm sure he has much more experience on this than me. But in the case of Patricia Hernandez, she had written a piece of who, we found, was her close friend, six pieces that promoted the person, and was also her roommate.
Now you'll have to forgive me because I don't have much journalism experience, but I am pretty sure you're not supposed to promote your roommate.
Koretzky: Let me just add....
Lynn: I have a question.
Koretzky: Go ahead.
Lynn: Did she disclose her relationship?
Mark: No. Not until GamerGate got involved.
Koretzky: Here's the... basically, I asked Stephen Totillo, the editor of Kotaku, about this. He did respond, but he said it was, quote, off-the-record. Not to be posted, quoted, or shared.
Mark: You know that's funny because I know Stephen Totillo's said the opposite. He always assumed that his writers would then go and tell him if there was a conflict of interest.
Koretzky: So what he did do is he pointed me to something that he had written about this before. So this is his response to what they're saying.
"Patricia had messed up in writing about some friends and former housemates without always acknowledging they were friends or former housemates. She thought some of it was obvious and in other cases didn't think it was relevant. Her passion for covering interesting games, big and small, should be obvious to anyone who regularly reads Kotaku, and I don't think at all was ever plugging work she didn't think was cool.
The disclosure is good to ward off even the appearance of impropriety. That's why, back in August, after I tweeted about my standards for disclosure... basically, if you think readers would want to know how you know a person, then you should tell them. After people dug through her entire Twitter history to raise question about some people she tweeted with, we then applied updates to some of the articles she had written.
Mind you, Patricia is someone who has been harassed by people who dislike her work and spread fake articles to discredit her. She's had to deal with a lot of bullshit along the way all the while writing some of the best stories about games, month-in and month-out."
Mark: But isn't that what a journalist goes through?
Koretzky: I just wanted to give Lynn and Ren some background. So basically...
Koretzky: ...this is another example... these guys picked out this example... and I went and tried to get to the source... where he is... the Editor in Chief is admitting that something was wrong. However, there are nuances in that response that I wanted you guys to address.
Lynn: Well I was going to say... if I have a reporter and they want to cover a restaurant, or we're doing an investigation on the restaurant's... I don't know, cleanliness. If they have any ownership or their friend has any ownership of that restaurant or any connection, they absolutely would not work on that. Not only would they not work on it, but...
Mark: It's a nice feeling.
Koretzky: Journalists aren't used to applause.
Mark: You guys should really like GamerGate. We do this sort of thing a lot.
Lynn: OK. But, not only would they not cover it... because we have instances where we ask reporters to disclose any kind of... any involvement they have. Whether it's volunteer, it might be a local community group, whatever it is. And if anyone is covering it in the newsroom, they are not associated with it. They are not involved with it. They're not involved in the notes. I've had meetings where we've asked the reporter to leave because of their involvement with the non-profit or something.
That's our standard and I feel we're very very... I mean, we're very strict with it. And I think what happens then is that it doesn't put me, as an executive producer or editor, in a position where the team's worked months on something. It's a great piece of work, and then the only thing anyone focuses on is that conflict of interest.
That's... one, we do it because I think it's the right way to do it, ethically. But two because we want the work to shine through and we don't want to give it the chance of having it to be focused, where they're going through someone's Twitter feed. And now the conversation is they only did that story because it's so and so's brother or something like that.
Ashe: So even a disclosure in that instance... if she were to disclose that at the beginning... I don't think that it would really help because you get through the entire article and then, oh yeah, this game was by my best friend.
Lynn: I'm saying I... if it was me, I wouldn't have her involved with that at all because of the relationship. But, let's say that... if even if someone else was writing about it, I would say there could be talk that I consider, do you disclose in the article that someone on your staff has a close relationship with this person? I think that might be something...
Mark: I think I wish you were involved in games journalism. It would make things a lot easier. Just to that point... and I do this with caution, I'm not trying to speak for all of GamerGate or many people beyond myself... but what I've seen is... for some people, it's fine if they put a disclosure. If they just say up front, "I'm friends with this person," the gaming audience, as you see, they're invested enough. They make the effort to go look for answers.
That if they're like... if they just tell them, "I'm friends with this person," they don't feel they're being lied to. They're like, OK, then I can make this judgment and say this writer is passing their opinion through this lens. And that's probably just enough. It's the fact that the media becomes hostile and anti-consumer or anti-gamer or whatever you want to call it... is I think what's really made a mess of this situation.
Koretzky: Ren, can I ask you a question? I love putting you on the spot most of all. I want to reread....
Ren: I wish I could read the chat.
Mark: I don't want to read it either, don't worry.
Koretzky: I want to make sure your Twitter feed is just gonna to get bombed. I want to reread one sentence from the editor of Kotaku's response and get your thoughts. Or actually two.
"He thought (the reporter)... he thought some of it was obvious and other cases didn't think it was relevant." And then the editor says, "I don't think at all that she was plugging work that she didn't think was cool. But disclosure is good."
Ren: Disclosure is good. I think if we come away with anything today, it's that the Gawker network is not the most [indecipherable]...
Allum: Well actually, with the disclosures issue. That wasn't just Kotaku. That was endemic across the gaming press. There was problems at PC Gamer, Poly(gon)....
Mark: Right, so...
Allum: Actually there was even a problem with The Guardian. The games...
Ren: Is "Well" actually on the drinking game / bingo thing I saw earlier?
[laughter] [Transcription Note: "Well" has been targeted for removal as a filler.]
Mark: The man's British, come on! Should I just jump into the next example then?
Koretzky: Hold on....
Ren: This is a pretty... this is a slam dunk for you guys. You got an ethical dilemma here. This is unethical. I agree.
Mark: I'm sorry but we have to keep going. The ride never ends.
Ren: What's that?
Mark: We have to keep going. The ride never ends.
Allum: Ren, Ren, on that point. I assume you wouldn't agree with the culture editor of Vox when he said, "GamerGate has yet to uncover any legitimate ethical problems in gaming journalism." He must be wrong.
Ren: Well, yeah.
Allum: He's wrong.
Koretzky: This... this....
Ren: This is great.
Koretzky: This is a rarity where journalism or GamerGate actually does anything definitive.
Mark: I'm telling you if you guys just talk to us more.... Don't [indecipherable] Twitter so much.
Koretzky: Alright, so....
Lynn: Did you have anything else to say about those comments? Because....
Ren: You're smarter than me, go ahead.
Lynn: No, I don't know about that. But I think you can't... and I love the reporters I work with... but, because they're so involved with the story, they're gathering the facts. They're sometimes not thinking of the bigger picture. That's why it is very important for the editors, for the producers, for news directors, whoever it might be to be thinking about these things for them.
I literally will ask those questions of people. Do you have any involvement? Do you know this person? How do you know this person? How do they know this person? And you do all of that, and I do all that, because I do think it's important because I want the story to shine. And I don't want someone troving through Twitter feeds talking about relationships.
Ashe: Well I gotta say [indecipherable]....
Lynn: Though, I think as an editor, you have that responsibility and that is kinda your goal to be looking at the bigger picture of how the story and the relationships are involved. Because... and it's not the reporters fault. They're just focused on a different aspect of it at times.
Ashe: And speaking of the broader picture, I want to point out that Patricia Hernandez is not the only exam... Like, we're not... we cured her, it's all over. I mean, there is... like, what are we up to, dozens upon dozens...
Mark: Are you asking for a number of possible conflicts of interest? Because Patricia had sixteen and Nathan Grayson had twenty one.
Ashe: No, people with conflicts of interest. She's not the only one.
Mark: Oh. Yeah if you guys want to see...
Ashe: Curing her doesn't cure the issue. There is dozens of other games journalists with many, many conflicts of interest.
Mark: There's a website called DeepFreeze.it where people have gone and tried to find all the conflicts of interest. It's not saying they're horrible people or they're guilty. Just here's the information and look at it. Then, I know there's a giant list. Someone's made a pastebin where they meticulously have every single link of possible information. So if any of you want to go and investigate that, you can.
Ren: In our ethics book, The New Ethics of Journalism available in fine book stores [indecipherable], we've actually... the ethics code in SPJ says "Act independently." We changed that a little bit to "Be transparent." Which is essentially the same thing. But it acknowledges the fact in some of these communities are small. Indie gaming communities, for example. It's almost impossible to not have friends in the industry, to not know people.
Mark: No it's not.
Ren: And so, we clarify that, in cases where you can't get around not using people who have relationships, to be as transparent as possible, to clearly articulate what you're doing, and to let people know that this exists.
Lynn: Just to build off of that, I think the other thing is to avoid conflict of interest... and this is from the SPJ Code of Ethics... "real or perceived." And I think that is so important because while you may not see it as a conflict of interest, the fact that someone else could or possibly could is huge too. Because if the public perceives it, then the reality of the world is it will become a conflict of interest in the public's state of mind. And then there goes your story.
Ren: And this is not a games industry specific problem. You have automotive journalism, beauty journalism, food journalism. These people all know each other. You have to be as transparent and independent as possible.
Mark: I can give you one that's game related. To that point...
Koretzky: Hold up. Before we go....
Ren: You have to. We kinda agree here.
Koretzky: Yeah, so before we go to another example, because sometimes these ethical examples exist in a vacuum, I want to ask Derek because these examples directly affect independent gamers...
Mark: Yes, please.
Koretzky: ...game developers. So Derek, talk to me about how some of these things that... apparently all sides agree on, right? We've had two examples so far where the editor has agreed there was a problem. Although, maybe not agreeing it is as much of a problem as everyone else is. And you have the journalists agreeing. I want to know how it affects the end user. The reader. The person. Talk to us about that.
Derek: Well, first, I agree with all of them. This is... there's no debate about that. We all know there has to be these disclosures. You have to be up front about them. The way it affects... well, it's not about how it affects independent developers. It effects everybody. It affects gamers and developers as a whole.
But, as I mentioned earlier, this problem has been going on for a very, very long time, and unfortunately there's nothing you can do about it. If you... if anybody was able to go back, let's say, I don't know, twenty years, okay? And you ran all these background checks, you ran all this conflict... checks. You would find that almost every single person, whether it's a reporter or a game developer, is six degrees connected to somebody.
The other thing about it is, I've written several articles about this. Because the industry is so insulated, that you find some of these reporters and these writers, they stop writing and go work for a video game company. Or they go into PR. There's a whole bunch of 'em. It used to be gamers, then writers, then in journalism.
Mark: If I could just jump in. It's like Congress. They become poli... they're politicians and then they become lobbyists.
Ashe: In politics we call it revolving door.
Derek: Right. Right, so that's precis... so they're...
Koretzky: I think we're seeing Ren and Lynn smile because that happens in journalism too.
Derek: Yeah, but here's the thing. Gamers are very passionate about this stuff. And, you know, gamers are really loud. If they don't like something, they're going to scream, you know?
Let's put it this way. If someone was on Food Network and they burnt a burger, you forget about it when the broadcast ends. Gamers? You write something that's not right, or something that doesn't gel right about something they love, you're going on vacation for a long time.
Koretzky: Let me ask you about that. We're going to take a question from online, or a statement from online, whatever they can get up in the control booth. But I want to ask you about that.
Why does it seem that gamers are less forgiving about steaks or burned burgers than other groups? Why is that? You work in this field. They're obviously not very forgiving. You make a mistake in a game, you will hear about it for the rest of your life. Is it some reason they're different?
Derek: Right. There's a very good reason why they're different. Gamers are unhinged. That's the first thing. Totally unhinged.
Koretzky: We're talking about your customers, right?
Mark (?): I think that's it right there. (?)
Derek: Yes, they're totally unhinged. Let's put it this way. For as long as I've been a gamer... I was a gamer first, then a game developer. When I figured out that they're actually paid me to do this stuff, it was all over. And I knew... the entire thing about gaming... as passionate as everybody is, as unhinged as they are, okay?
And the whole thing about anonymity... if the gamer doesn't like something, they don't like it. It's... that's pretty much where it ends. If they like something, they like it. And they're unhinged because they... the whole purpose of gaming... I always say to people... gaming is about drama. If you take out all the drama, all you have left is psychosis.
Koretzky: Oh jesus.
Derek: OK? And the bottom line is people are anti-social by nature. Now, if you've got a good game, games bring people together. All kinds of people. Whether it's your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, the guy down the road. Gamers is a collective entity.
When you bring all those different people together and you have that one loud voice, the fact that they all feed off each other... if somebody can say, hey, I'm here, and somebody say, hey, I see you, that's what gaming is about. That's the collective. That's why GamerGate is the way it is.
Because these people are all unhinged and they can say and do what they want because they're passionate about this stuff.
Koretzky: Alright, wow.
Mark: Can I respond to that super quick?
Koretzky: Super quick.
Mark: I have to [indecipherable] that you said unhinged. But just two points why I think it is the way it is. I think we have to be careful not to confuse online with gamers, because online... it doesn't even matter if you're anonymous. If you go look at Yelp, people will tell you how awful your shop is or what have you. But online people go crazy with their opinions.
And the second thing is if gamers seem more invested, which I attribute GamerGate to, it's because, unlike movies or book where it's kinda a passive experience, gaming you interact with it. You have to be invested in it. It's not just... it's not something you can really do casually for like long hours. It takes an effort. I mean, you can. You can play Candy Crush, I imagine. But you can't... I don't think you can really call yourself a gamer at that point. But in any case, so...
Mark: Anyway. Yes, so, there is this... it's a personal investment, I think it's what it is.
Koretzky: So this is something that's interesting. Ren was mentioning there are similar problems... ethical problems in many niche kinds of journalism. Food reporting, automotive reporting. But maybe one of the issues here is that it's just a lot more passionate in gaming. So that journa...
Mark: Which isn't bad.
Koretzky: No, I'm not saying it's bad. I'm saying it's something that mainstream journalists have to accept. Is there a question from upstairs? Online? Do you want to read that from the booth?
[Booth]: Alright. While journalists are certainly held accountable to codes of ethics, how will this apply to amateur journalists or to bloggers?
Koretzky: Interesting. Basically, if it's not Kotaku, if it's somebody trying to start their own blog, how are they supposed to learn about good journalism, journalism ethics, and apply them?
Lynn: So I think if you are writing online... that it's your personal blog, Facebook posts, whatever it is... I think you have to be aware that it's public even though you may think it's private. And I think, if you want to be taken seriously and respected, that you should have some kind of ethics in place.
And if you want to turn... there are some codes out there and I think SPJ's is one of them, journalists have been doing it for years, who can give you that kind of advice. In my opinion you don't have to be with a news organization to adopt a code of ethics or abide by it or follow it. I think everyone should be.
As far as getting advice or if you have questions? You can contact SPJ. You can contact Poynter. There are tons of organizations that write about this on a daily basis.
Koretzky: But what if I'm not an SPJ member? I don't want to spend 76 bucks.
Lynn: You can still contact us.
Ren: They can go download the code of ethics from the SPJ website.
Koretzky: But then you're saying...
Ren: And put it on their wall.
Ashe: But even then you just... a lot of this, I don't want to say common sense, but you just kind of think about it. You want your article to be accurate. You want to make sure that you're not giving false information because that reflects poorly on you. And you also want to make sure that people want to read you because you are coming from a standpoint that's maybe not being a cheerleader for a specific thing when you're presenting yourself as a neutral party.
Koretzky: Right. So I guess what I'm wondering here, based on what we talked about... I don't think a lot of people know that... say that they're going to start up their own blog because they're bad. Most journalism outlets that are started by individuals are not started because they said to themselves "Self? I want to start a journalism outlet and just do noble things upon the world."
No. They were pissed off at something and they want to do it right by themselves. But I don't think people know, and this is a good opportunity to say, that the Poynter and the SPJ... you don't have to be a member, you don't have to pay dues... they will still talk to you and they will still help you.
So that if anybody is trying to start their own media outlet, trying to cover, say, games on their own, they can e-mail Lynn Walsh at SPJ headquarters, me... and we'll get them the information they'll need. That you're not doing this in a vacuum.
Then maybe one other solution we can get out of this is that if there are, in the gaming world, other sites that are trying to make a go of it, that there is in SPJ something called communities, which are online groups of people that share similar interests. Not like your GamingJournPros. But people that will... because people don't talk about specific stories, they talk about how to do things. Shortcuts that aren't going to cost you coverage. Business things.
Maybe there needs to be a community of those smaller gaming sites that gamers themselves like, and maybe SPJ can help facilitate them. Not dictate to them. We don't even know half this stuff., but maybe we can help. Does that sound like it might work?
Allum: Well the good thing is, after GamerGate, a number of news sites did spring up in specific response to the allegations of poor standards in the more established ones. And they started up with clear ethical... ethics policies. So there's one called TechRaptor. There's another popular one called Niche Gamer and a few other ones as well.
Mark: And most of the big sites then enforce... or they compose ethics policies. I wouldn't... I don't even know if they enforce them. We'd have to keep an eye on them. But yeah, so, despite what the mainstream media might say is all about harassment, actual changes come from it. Numerous changes. But you don't hear about it because if it bleeds it leads. No one's bleeding when there's good news.
Koretzky: Alright is there any other question from online or anything else? OK we'll just keep going on and we'll get back to them later? Alright, what's the... let's try and get through one more example...
Mark: I can do it super duper fast.
Koretzky: I don't believe you.
Mark: You going to dare me? You going to challenge me?
Koretzky: I double dare you.
Mark: OK. Super duper fast because I know it's something the media... the gaming press has criticized GamerGate for. Within AAA development... AAA meaning large development, not just the indie scale, but for a game to be made its sort of like a movie. They need a studio in terms of games. There's a publisher. The publisher finances the studio or the production group to make the game and/or movie.
So it's... developer would be akin to the studio, production / studio group akin to the publisher. And this is the Jeff Gertsmann example that you guys have read. Jeff Gertsmann had reviewed Kane & Lynch a 6.0 for GameSpot. He was then later fired because it was scored too low. The website was covered in ads for Kane & Lynch.
This is something that's been in the industry at least the last ten years which we know from the personal account of Dan Hsu, editor in chief... former editor in chief of Electronic Gaming Monthly. So, not only is it a matter of on the indie scale of people promoting their friend's cronyism. Also on the large financial scale, the publisher's putting pressure.
Koretzky: Now in this case, is there any acknowledgement that that happened from both sides?
Mark: In the Gertsmann case?
Koretzky: OK, because we had two other examples here. For these guys it is very important to know if, like, Stephen Totaku...Stephen Totillo of Kotaku... try saying that five times fast. He admits that in those two cases that we heard earlier that something went wrong.
Koretzky: The issue was whether he was taking it seriously enough. In this case, I just want to make sure, do we know that that's why that guy got fired?
Mark: Yes, we know that's why he got fired because he later went on to form another website that was owned by CBS. CBS then acquired GameSpot. He was no longer forced by an NDA to not speak about. He could actually clear the air. That's why we know. Because only years later, when the legal information had cleared, and it was no longer going to hurt Gertsmann (?).... We can go into it.
Koretzky: Alright so this gets to a facet of journalism called reviewing which is controversial not only in gaming but especially in music. Obviously as Ren said in food journalism, automotive journalism. And this gets back to something that gamers... GamerGate has specifically asked me in the past several months... what is the difference between reviewing and reporting, and should reviewing have a lot of opinion, a little opinion... are there any rules for that ethically speaking? If you want to take that hand grenade.
Mark: You can do it, I believe in you.
Lynn: I don't have... I will just say, I have never reviewed anything, I don't believe, and I traditionally do not work in this realm. With that said.... I don't even know, I'm trying to think...
Koretzky: Let me come at it this way. How would the ethics code apply to reviewers? If I'm reviewing, whether it's a video game, an album from an artist, a new car, or a new restaurant, what parts of the ethics code to I need to especially look at?
Lynn: I think the "Act independently" and the "Be transparent." I think those are two things. So, if there's some kind of relationship between you or your company... where you're working... and the products... so in this case, a game or the devele... the game developer... I think that should be disclosed. That would come under transparent. That would also come under act independently. I would also say to disclose that.
As far as opinion, how much opinion goes into it versus facts... I think isn't that what a review is about? It's about your opinion, I would say? So, I would think...
Ashe: Well, the issue we've been having with the reviews, and he can get into this more, is that the developer basically has this power where if you don't give them a good enough review, then you're either financially or your job...
Mark: The publisher.
Ashe: The publisher. Go ahead.
Lynn: OK, so I was going to approach that in a completely different way...
Koretzky: Go ahead.
Lynn: ...and that is from something I do have experience with with investigations. Whether we at local news organizations and pretty much every organization I've worked at, it's ad revenues or it's donations based. So, because of that, there's always... people always asked me have you ever been asked to stop working on a piece or have a piece pulled because maybe an advertiser didn't like it.
Fortunately, I can say that has never happened to me. Do I know that it has happened to other people in mainstream media? Absolutely. Other people have experienced that. Personally, I think that's wrong. I would fight back against that in my organization.
That said, have I been in situations where we've covered something that it is an advertiser has a big stake in and we get a lot of money from them? Is our piece critiqued a lot more? Are there a lot more questions from higher-ups that you maybe haven't talked to in six months? Absolutely. I'm okay with that though, because at the end of the day, if they're just pushing me harder, and we know the facts and we have everything together, it still goes to air.
And luckily, like I said, I've worked for people who support that. I like to think that everyone working at a journalism publication has those people that support them like that and take the backlash of whatever it comes, whether advertisement dollars are pulled or whatever that is.
Unfortunately, not everyone does. But I think that's where we want to get to, that's what every journalist wants. You want to work for someone who says, "I don't care if you pulled millions of dollars of advertising. We're going to do what we want because it's in the public's interest."
Koretzky: Let's be clear. There's a greedy self-interest for that. You might lose one advertiser, but if you keep your readers interested and loyal to you, you'll get another advertiser. So, sometimes there's also a business reason for doing that.
I want to ask you guys. This sounds really basic for you guys as journalists as basic as some of the gaming stuff sounds to the GamerGate people. Reviews: how should they be labeled?
Koretzky: Because... well, no, that's a fair question. Because it does seem on some of the gaming sites I've seen, and even the ones that you guys say you like, because...
Mark: I don't like any. What are you talking about Koretzky?
Koretzky: Alright, that's true. You hate everything and everybody
Mark: No, I'm joking. I'm joking.
Koretzky: There doesn't seem to be a lot on these gaming sites. I don't know if you've looked at some of those links. But, there doesn't seem to be a clear separation as there is in broadcast journalism where you know if this is a feature or an opinion at the end of the broadcast.
Where online, for mainstream media outlets, it'll say "Opinion," or "Review," or "Sports," or "News"... That doesn't seem to exist as much in the gaming press. What should be done about that? How should those sites be segmented out?
Ren: This is just a problem of web design, right? If you have an opinion piece, it should be somehow clearly labeled opinion. If you have some completely awful satire website... these things trick people all the time, it should be labeled satire. Unfortunately, there's nobody... nobody is going to make you do that. No one's policing the internet.
So, I think for publications, they have a responsibility to make it pretty clear when you're looking at an opinion piece, or you're looking at a review, or you're looking at a news article that approaches something from a more centrist point of view. Yeah.
Lynn: I think BuzzFeed... and I will bring up BuzzFed... does a good job of this by highlighting things in yellow, or at least they did... I think they still do, I don't know. Things like that that you can do to tell a reader this is sponsored. Saying sponsored maybe. If you went to a concert and everything was paid for, then that should be disclosed if you're reviewing it. I personally really do.
Does that happen? I don't really see that happen a lot or ever. In my opinion, I think it should be. Because if I'm reading Entertainment Weekly, and they're writing a great article about a movie, but it's owned by the same company that they're published by, which happens all the time, I think knowing that as a viewer would help, as a reader, would help me think about, OK, is this thing actually good, or is it actually good because they want to make money.
Koretzky: It sounds like I just asked you these really basic questions. Like, no duh. But here's why I was asking you those questions. Recently, while organizing AirPlay, BuzzFeed did a story on SPJ and this event. The reporter talked to me... tried to interview SPJ solely by e-mail... talked to me, and it was a really interesting conversation because the reporter is obviously leading me by the hand to his own opinion.
And I'm like, don't play a player. I know exactly what you're doing. And then the story comes out and it's kind of slanted. Now I'd be totally cool with that if it said BuzzFeed opinion or review... Review of Air Play. "I think it's going to suck."
What it said was BuzzFeed News. And the byline said Senior News Reporter. So they did label it. They just labeled it wrong. So what... talk to me about ethics about labeling opinion as news?
Ren: The ethics of labeling opinion as new is that it should be labeled as opinion.
Koretzky: So is it a high crime or a misdemeanor?
Ren: I think it's becoming more of a high crime. I think with the internet and with... with the newspaper we had individual sections. We had the editorial page, we had the op-ed page. If something appeared on those., it was opinion. That doesn't exist on the internet, so we have to do a better job of labeling.
Koretzky: I want to ask you guys as GamerGate representatives. Tell me if this opinion is wrong. It seems that more than the examples you cited earlier about ethical violations that may not had been corrected correctly that this is an issue for GamerGate... almost more passionately... that the delineation between what's opinion, what's news, what's a fair review....
That even if the strongest opinions, even if the gaming is dead stories that GamerGate hated so much, if they had a big label at the top that said "My Opinion," would it've still have caused as much of a backlash? They still might hate those articles and left a thousand comments. But would things have been different?
Mark: Because it came as a result of trying to censor the discussion. It's the Streisand Effect. They said, "Don't talk about it! Don't talk about it!" Well, it's going to make people talk about it. It's like when Tom Cruise had this Scientology video. They tried to get rid of it. People just shared it more.
Whether they could have called it anything, but the fact they tried to censor the discussion is what caused the issue.
Ashe: And not only that, but the labeling of us being terrible people in the process.
Mark: It was bad.
Ashe: Right, if you... if you categorize someone as a terrible person, they're going to want to speak up and defend themselves just as much.
Koretzky: I wonder, is there some way that if a website, say in the BuzzFeed case, labeled something as news and it is not, what can a reader do about that? What can SPJ or the Poynter Institute say about that?
Like you said Lynn earlier, we're not a licensing agency. We don't want... we don't want there to be journalism licenses and (?) we don't the government licensing journalists.
Mark: A reader actually did something about that.
Koretzky: What's that?
Mark: So, Gawker had affiliate links for native advertising that they were not disclosing. So GamerGate contacted the FTC and, as a result, the FTC put pressure. Now it's like there... I think there, like... you want to get in on that?
Ashe: Federal Trade Commission.
Mark: Thank you. Federal Trade Commission, because I've said it so many times. Anyway. So now I think they're working out some sort of legislation where they have to show it now. Or otherwise, there's this ridiculous fine or thing. Sorry I just wanted to showboat a little about what people's done.
Lynn: As far as what can be done, I think... if it was something that I was passionate about, and I wanted to disclose the fact that this gamer has this relationship or whatever, I think kinda doing what you guys are doing, by exposing that, is fine. I think that is a great idea.
As far as what SPJ can do or Poynter... while we may not be a policing agency, we do when we see something that we might think, whether an individual is part of the organization or the organization as a whole, we do blog about it. We do write about it, and we hope to think that by writing about it, by blogging about it, the public then and everyone else, you're kinda gaining this momentum and people are talking about it, and hopefully, the person will stop.
Again, at the end of the day, we're not a licensing agency, we can't pull anything. But, maybe will that person lose their job? I don't know. There are repercussions maybe within the industry. That's all I can think that maybe we can do.
Ren: Yeah, and I think it's on everybody here and everybody watching online too to stop consuming it. If fewer people....
Mark: Absolutely. I agree with you on that.
Ren: Yeah. You guys use that archive link all the time, right? So you can poke at stuff without actually giving them their ad money.
Koretzky: OK, but here's the problem with that is when I talk to some gaming journalists... Just as you guys are insulted by guilt by association, some gaming journalists feel the same way. So, there have been some outlets that have done some bad things, but now, the GamerGate way of correcting, even a minor problem, is to use a howitzer to kill a fly. Is (?) anything wrong goes online and then the volume is always turned up to eleven.
That can have a negative effect, Lynn, of making those reporters gun shy about engaging with their readers. And one thing you'll hear from these guys, especially in the internet era, journalists have to engage with their readers. So, there has to be a different way of being successful.
There have been examples of GamerGate applying pressures to make changes. Some grudgingly, but they got made. We have to try to come up with a different way of doing that. Otherwise, you'll fix each individual problem, but you'll create a lot more.
Ashe: Right, well, and that goes beyond journali... games journalism as just... sometimes if you... if you're a single person and you send an e-mail to a journalist and say "This is wrong, wrong, wrong," they might be like, "Yeah, that's just your opinion." But if enough people send it, then they actually take notice, which is what this is all coming from. Whereas that they needed more voices than just one in order to get a problem [indecipherable].
Koretzky: So let me ask you a question. What if, out of this event, if not SPJ National, I know the Florida chapter... what if they were to help setup a community of either game... gamers who are interested in journalism or gaming journalists themselves, to write on a blog under that chapter's name, so it has some journalism impression to it, in a clear, not violent way, would that have any effect. do you think, in the world of games journalism? Not immediately, maybe over time.
Mark: It's a start. I would think the easiest way to solve the problem, how would any journalist try get into that, be sincere. Be honest and sincere about your interests. And if you mess up, people will forgive you. You can just be sincere about it. It's just that simple. Like I said, if you put a disclosure, they don't even mind. As long as you've given the information.
Koretzky: So, I just want a... we have a few minutes left, and I want to sum up some ways that things... we might try to make things better. And they're not... they're not the ultimate solution, but maybe collectively they would help. We are talking about offering the gaming press some education and some training directly from SPJ or Poynter Institute that... I'm obligating these guys on stage... to help provide direct contact and support. Not just "Hey, check out our webinar." But actually talking to someone...
Ren: Hey, I host those. They're pretty good.
Kortezky: I don't know how to recover from that.
Koretzky: If we had direct contact with some of those outlets, if they want it, to give them training, to do some of the things we talked about today... here's a correction policy that works. You don't have to rewrite it yourself under duress. These policies already work. Here's a bunch of them. You can take your pick. Here is a way of spelling out conflicts of interest. Here's a hierarchy. It should go to the news director or the editor if it's a small operation. Here's how it could work.
And third, journalism awards from SPJ, maybe, that say, "Hey we're going to reward ethical gaming journalism." Well, instead of just always beating them over the head with a stick, we stick a carrot in their mouth and say...
Mark: Positive reinforcement.
Mark: Positive reinforcement.
Koretzky: Yes, exactly. So if we had journalism awards like SPJ has that reward good journalism that's also ethical... that's part of the requirement for those rewards... would that work?
Allum: Well I'm sure it wouldn't solve all the problems because you'd still have your Gawker medias, but it'd certainly be a step in the right direction. I don't think gamers would probably get behind that one hundred percent.
Koretzky: Taken collectively... this is maybe a dumb question... taken collectively, if all those things happened, what percent do you think things get better?
Mark: How long a time are you putting on it?
Koretzky: Forever. If we do this, we're going to do this.
Mark: I'm a humanist so I'm going to say it'll get completely fixed because I believe in people.
Ashe: Well, that's going to be a step. That's gonna be... that could definitely help. I might say as much as ten, fifteen percent because there's a whole lot of other issues. But it could be... it could be a great step.
Allum: I think gamers will always, for the foreseeable future, remain hyper vigilant about their press in a way that other constituencies aren't. I don't think that's really a bad thing. I think that raises standards. I think we've already seen it raise standards on a number of publications. But that, again, that's not really a bad thing because the press will never... [indecipherable], in their own interest (?), ever become completely ethical. There are always... where there's political activists or publishers or game developers that will always try to influence the press. So it's good to have a group of consumers that are watching out for that.
Mark: We're human. We're still prone to error.
Koretzky: You're talking to a bunch of journalists. I know. Alright, from you guys, same thing, we're talking about several steps that we can take. I've obligated your organizations to help. Do you hate me?
Ren: No, I mean, this book, which I will show once more, exists...
Koretzky: How much is that book Ren?
Mark: Where can I get it Ren?
Ren: It's on Amazon. Go look up the price.
Ren: I know, I'm on a stage, right? I'm not a journalist.
Koretzky: I also hear with every book you get a free bag of Doritos.
Ren: This exists on the internet in a course format for free. So, anybody can access it anytime. It's on NewSu.org, which is where I work. But, I mean, we have a ton of free training courses, about ethics, about any number of things, and anyone can take them.
And they don't, because nobody actually cares about that. The chat right now is full of pictures of nazi flags and AIDS threat. How do you work with those people? How do you make them [indecipherable]...
Mark: You don't [indecipherable].
Ren: ...because those are the inflammatory elements of this thing that get you guys such bad press. I don't know what the answer to [indecipherable].
Ashe: That's why... that occurs in everything, whether it's gaming, whether it's politics, whether it's...
Mark: It's the internet.
Ren (?): You're stuck with them now.
Ashe: It's the internet.
Ren: For better or worse, these people are attached to you in the [indeciphrable]...
Mark: No, no, we're all stuck with them. Not just GamerGate. It's just the media has misfairly represented that.
Derek: Yeah but I think you guys are missing all one simple thing. What you guys are advocating is to teach people something they should already know.
Derek: You really don't need to ask somebody to describe what it is to be ethical or... people who want to do the right thing will do the right thing. It's really that simple. Now there's lot of....
Koretzky: Lynn is looking at you like she just sat on a tack.
Derek: Hang on, hang on. Remember, I am in the middle of here, so I'm listening and I'm agreeing. What's missing here is... we're talking about adding another layer and... to what people can and cannot do or where they can go and read stuff to learn how to do things.
The bottom line is this: if somebody needs to be told you're doing the wrong thing, that person shouldn't be writing for the public.OK? There's a very fine between what's right and what's wrong. A lot of people don't know where that line is.
Now, there's lots of publications online. If you want to learn how to write ethically, there's lots of publications online. If you want to write to make sure you don't get sued because you want to be able to voice your opinion, you can go to EFF.org. They have lots of articles online.
Koretzky: Right. I think what Ren is saying, and this is true, and this is something that me and Ren and Lynn struggle with in our profession, is that there are free resources at Poynter Institute...
Koretzky: ...and not a lot of journalists... good journalists take advantage of them, but the journalists who need them don't.
Koretzky: So, I guess what I'm wondering is, is there a way to cajole and not only punish gaming journalists to avail themselves of these resources? Even if we have to kinda lead them to it personally. You're saying it's common sense. Derek, if common sense were really that common, there wouldn't be any journalists.
Derek: But here's the thing though. It is... that's true... but I think what's lost here is, as I said earlier, we don't need to add another layer. You can drag an animal to the stream, you can't force it to drink. The stuff's out there.
Any, I mean, most of these writers who are writing these things incorrectly, are writing these opinions and labeling them as something that they're not... these people know what they're doing. Let's put it this way. The difference between Fox News and BBC and CNN is obvious.
Koretzky: I'm not going there.
Derek: Well, but, no, let's...
Koretzky: Hold on, hold on, I just want to [indecipherable] for one second, because I want to tell the booth that we're going to take some more questions from online. I do want to float out one more idea that wraps up all of this, and I want each of you to tell me if you think this is a good or bad idea.
In mainstream journalism, the New York Times has two different positions. One's called an ombudsmen, which is someone who is hired by the New York Times to write bad things about the New York Times essentially. They're paid to critique their own paper.
Now I don't suppose a gaming journalism is going to do that. But the New York Times and other publications have something else. They have really sounding weird titles like Media Reporter. Basically, a reporter who covers reporting.
So David Carr was one famous guy who did that. He was in a movie. But, I'm wondering is if... what gaming might need, because it is such a passionate audience, is a gaming reporter reporter. Someone to just basically have a website that covers the reporting of gaming. Now that doesn't always work in other media....
Koretzky: I don't know who that is. Ah, it's stopping. But you're telling me this community is much more impassioned. Derek, you're saying how... almost unhinged. They're that interested in this sort of world. A gaming media writer might be well read, well respected and a place for everyone to come to, and that could be where gaming journalists would go to and realize, "Oh my god, I better fix that because I don't want to be shamed on this site."
Allum: Well, this sounds like DeepFreeze.it.
Koretzky: But it's not!
Ashe: Right, exactly, it's... (?)
Koretzky: Because I talked to Bone Golem and he is mortified at the prospect of being that guy.
Ashe: Right, no, I-I....
Derek: Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on....
Koretzky: He e-mailed me when I mentioned that, "Please god don't do that." I assume because he doesn't want....
Allum: I stand corrected.
Koretzky: I assume because he doesn't want the Eye of Sauron turned on him. So I am wondering if some journalist should do that. Maybe it's a journalist that's only tangentially connected to gaming so they don't... they come at it sort of new and not a whole bunch of baggage like Lynn and Ren were saying.
Ashe: I think that's a... that's a great idea. It doesn't even need to necessarily be a whole new site. Although, to begin with, it probably will. But if that starts and it starts getting readership then that could lead to places like Kotaku actually hiring their own person. If you look now at almost every single news outlet, they have somebody who's reporting on the media. The Examiner has someone. Dylan Byers at Politico.
Almost every publication has someone doing this. So I think that it's a great idea if somebody out there wants to start this up and have it eventually spread to more mainstream outlets.
Mark: Uhm, yeah... am I on? Yeah. Yeah, no, it's... that is happening. It's a good idea that's happened. I have to disagree with Ren once again, sorry, about something earlier. He said that when you work in that area, it's unavoidable that you make friends and I would say that's false. It's not unavoidable that you make friends with the people that you're covering.
I know Erik Kain for example. He'll cover things and he'll keep a distance. He does....
Koretzky: He's from Forbes.
Mark: Forbes, yes. And Erik, he actually, he's kinda... that's sort of something he does now. He's one of the few people who tried at the start to sort of like cover the medias... report on the media. William Usher, who was a part of GamerGate, did a lot of... he's done it for years even beyond me. I don't think he's like friends with any of these people. He keeps a distance.
I wouldn't call myself a journalist, but I've done a little bit of reporting on it, and even I've tried to do it. But I'm not friends with any of these people. And it's unfortunate that it... you have to make some sacrifices to do that, but I don't think it's impossible.
Allum: Actually, what you were saying about someone who's covering the gaming media and its problems, I think that's probably William Usher. He's done more than anyone with his blog. He's covered virtually every ethical allegation on his blog. Yeah, he knows more than anyone on that.
Koretzky: William Usher was on the GamerGate meeting that selected you guys, and I understand what he does. I'm talking about something a little more formal, a little more involved, so that in following these journalistic practices, someone outside GamerGate, because if you want credibility, just like Lynn was talking about, about relationships, if you have someone that does not have that relationship saying something is amiss, it carries more weight.
Look at what happened here today. When these guys clapped when these journalists who you do not know said something you agree with because they carry more weight. It would have to be someone like that. Does that make sense to you guys?
Well, we're going to see after AirPlay if it's just a lot of talk or if we can make this happen. Are there questions or comments from online?
[Booth]: Alright, uhm. So one question was about amateur journalists or journalists that are interested in getting into games journalism may be discouraged from entering the field due to the intense scrutiny that is being applied to contemporary games journalists. Should they expect similar levels of scrutiny, and is that level of scrutiny appropriate?
Allum: Well, I would... the advice I would give is to join a game publishing... a games news site that still has a decent reputation, like the Escapist or one of the new ones like Niche Gamer. Then I think you'd be scrutinized fairly. I agree that there is a sort of hyper vigilance about places like Kotaku, which I think is sort of justified. But yes, you would be under extra scrutiny somewhere like there, but not so much at, say, the Escapist which has sort of proved itself.
Ashe: And at the same time, you really shouldn't be afraid if you're following pretty simple ethics like "Don't report on your friends and roommate's stuff." "Disclose your conflict of interests." And make sure that you have the facts when you're actually reporting. These are very simple common sense things that will lead you to not getting attacked in that way as far as scrutiny goes.
Mark: So the short answer is no.
Koretzky: OK. Here's a question... before we go back up to the booth... here's a question from someone in the audience.
[Anonymous]: Hello. So this is a bit of a cynical question, but while I really like the idea of sort of a journalism of journalism site that can be critical of the gaming media, would the current way that ad revenue and just generally the revenue models for these sites, would there be any particular downside to being negatively reported on by this potential site? Like is there significant penalty right now if Kotaku is found to be, say, like we've talked about, having done journalism with poor ethics. Do they suffer in any way from that?
Allum: Well I think the consequences is massive losses of trust and people go to other sites and they archive your news stories so that you don't get any more ad revenue.
[Anonymous]: Well, so I guess that's actually what I'm kinda getting at. So while I dislike the environment of the gaming... while I'm sympathetic to games journalists disliking the current very fiery, very aggressive environment... if we didn't do that, would there be any penalty at all? Even if everyone just roundly says "Oh, that's horrible. You shouldn't be doing that." Would they suffer at all if we didn't do anything?
Ren: I think Koretzky's idea, correct me if I'm wrong, was to sort of build an authority on this type of thing to where this person would be respected enough to have some type of influence over these people, right?
Koretzky: Yeah. Basically, what you're saying and what these guys are saying I guess is true. GamerGate has made changes based on its outrage. The question is, at a certain point, does the outrage kinda come back and not work? So... I'm not saying it didn't work, I'm not... I'm just saying that I... in the three months... I don't think journalists get offended by outrage. If they do, they probably shouldn't be journalists. But it does just make it really difficult to talk to someone. So we're trying to come up with any other solution. Do you have any yourself?
[Anonymous]: Well, no, I love your solution. I'm just being cynical. I'm just cynical by nature, so I'm just wonder if there is...
Koretzky: You're in good company. You're talking to journalists.
[Anonymous]: I figured. I've learned that. No, I agree with your solution. I love it. I'm just wondering if anyone has any thoughts about, like, whether it will actually work and if there are any conditions... any situations where it has worked in the past.
Allum: I think it works in sort of combination. You have the carrot and the stick. The good cop and the bad cop. If you get it badly wrong, you're still going to have a massive backlash.
Koretzky: You know what, if it doesn't work, what does it cost us?
[Anonymous]: Oh yeah.
Koretzky: Things will still suck.
Mark: Thank you for the question.
Koretzky: Question from upstairs?
[Booth]: Would it be possible for games journalism outlets like Kotaku and Gamasutra to rebuild the trust of their consumers and, if so, what would that look like and how long would it take?
Mark: Yes. They would probably have to get rid of the worst of the people who have caused the most damage and it would take a long time. I don't like the idea of advocating saying "Get rid of someone," but unfortunately, these... a number of these individuals... and not all gaming journalism is bad. I like to call them anti-consumer.
Koretzky: Let me ask you about that, because I can tell you that makes journalists cringe when you're trying to remove someone from their livelihood.
Mark: Oh no, I don't blame you.
Koretzky: If they're writing stuff you don't like, and it's accurately labeled opinion, do you still object?
Mark: I object when it hurts people's livelihood and it ruins their reputations and it makes the industry an awful place.
Koretzky: Let me ask you guys. What does it take for a journalist to actually deserve to lose their job?
Ren: Should we rally off some of the...? Plagiarism.
Lynn: Plagiarism's huge.
Lynn: Yeah, inaccuracies. Writing something as fact that clearly is not.
Ashe: And then, sorry, to just to jump in with regular media that we're seeing those things happen and people not losing their jobs.
Koretzky: Brian Williams.
Ashe: ...still employed. Fareed Sakaria has plagiarized...
Koretzky: Rolling Stone editors and writers.
Ren: Yeah, they've sort of become big enough brands to where their people... these public... their publishers are taking their risks with them.
Allum: To go back to the question. I don't think... I think Kotaku could probably... I don't think they need to go to that length. I think the Escapist has provided a formula for winning back trust. Because you have to... well, I keep bringing this example up... at the start of GamerGate, the Escapist was seen as one of the worst examples. Gamers brought up incidents in the past where they misreported a story. Where they got their facts wrong. What the Escapist did was they apologized for all those stories. They published a new ethics code, and, when they covered GamerGate, they went and talked to both sides.
Koretzky: So let me ask you a question [indecipherable].
Allum: So that's the formula.
Mark: Hold on, Allum. At the same time people loved the Escapist. So it wasn't just reformation of policies and what have you. There are people...
Allum: But that happened much later when they had to [indecipherable]...
Mark: Yeah after... after [indecipherable].
Allum: They'd already won back trust by that point.
Koretzky: So let me ask you a question about that because journalists are very skeptical about these sort of things. Did they win back readers because they just changed what they were writing? They changed the opinions to be something GamerGate liked? Or did they still get the GamerGate audience and write stories that GamerGate did not like? Because that's a test.
Allum: Yes. Yes, yes, there were a number of very vocally anti-GamerGate at the Escapist who remained there while all these changes were going on.
Koretzky: And you're saying that GamerGate still accepts that?
Mark: They didn't like those articles, but they still [indecipherable] what the Escapist was trying to do. Like I said, it's just be sincere. When most places were trying to shut down any discussion, the Escapist had a loud discussion that happened on their forums. Their servers were DDoSed... that is, their servers were attacked... to try and silence the discussion.
So it's just if you're sincere and you're transparent and you're fair, that's really all you need to do.
Allum: I think one of the crucial things they did, that a lot of games journalists... games news sites didn't... a lot of mainstream news sites didn't when they covered GamerGate, is that in the first couple of months, the Escapist went out and interviewed supporters on both sides. That happened barely anywhere else in the coverage of gaming.
Koretzky: That is something we're going to talk about in the afternoon. Did you guys have anything to add really quick?
Ren: I'm just wondering about the premise of the question. Do these sites feel like they need to win back some type of trust? Did they feel like they lost trust? Has their advertising revenue really fallen that much? Do they... I mean, how big of... how big percentage of the gaming industry is GamerGate?
Allum: So Gawker said they lost seven figures of ad revenue due to GamerGate.
Allum: We don't know what those seven figures. Could be between one million and nine point nine million.
Lynn: And that wasn't enough to... for them to change their policies or for them to... I guess... I guess after they... after they said that, did you see an improvement in ethical conduct by their writers, their reporters?
Allum: Well, after GamerGate, they did go back and add disclosures to a lot of, say, Patricia Hernandez's articles...
Mark: Patricia Hernandez. But Nathan Grayon there still doesn't have disclosures on his articles.
Derek: I want to say something about that revenue stream thing though. An article came out last week that I shared on my Facebook page about this revenue stream. I think it's not just about readership that's making them lose money. It's about all these people using all these ad blockers and everything else.
So if somebody says I've lost seven million dollars on blah blah blah, it really doesn't mean that they've lost readership. It usually means that they've just lost money. But money comes from people coming to your site and what's been generated from the ads on that site.
So that's really why if somebody says, as Lynn just mentioned, if somebody says we've lost seven million dollars blah blah blah, it doesn't mean you've lost seven million dollars because people aren't reading the site. It just means that people may be reading the site but they're blocking all the ads because that's how you get most of those metrics.
Mark: Derek, actually, I'm sorry to correct you. In the case of GamerGate, they actually did lose the ads, because GamerGate personally... we had campaigns [indecipherable].
Derek: Yeah, yeah, I'm aware. I'm aware of that. What I was saying is that, when Lynn mentioned, well...
Koretzky: Actually, I don't... I don't want to get too far into that because part of this is our afternoon discussion about covering online movements, how GamerGate actually approaches things.
Koretzky: I do want to do this. We've only got a couple minutes left. Based on this conversation...
Koretzky: ...I would love for each of you to just give a wrap-up of what you've learned today, what you think should happen after today. Because I've heard a lot of people ask me, well, if AirPlay happens and nothing happens afterwards, what was gained or what was lost? Is anything gained or lost by this? Do we need to implement some of those ideas? Will they help? What do you suggest? Do you think there should be more discussions like this?
Just talk to me about the past two hours and your impressions. Anyone can start in any order.
Ashe: OK, I think that this was a good opening discussion. We definitely did not get to all of our examples. If I had known just how much the discussion would have occurred, I would have started with a different example. For instance, I know Allum did not even get to most of his stuff.
Allum: GameJournoPros, yes.
Ashe: Right. So I think this is a good opening and a good beginning stance and I think that we got the admission from Ren and Lynn that the disclosure is a big breach of ethics. And that was something that gamers have been... and those involved in GamerGate... have really been trying to get to the surface.
So I think that this discussion really helped bring that into the public arena and I think that more discussions like this will bring the other issues in there as well.
Allum: Well, what I have learned... well, what I suppose people watching have learned or people who have only read the mainstream media have learned is that claims that GamerGate is only about harassment and not about ethics are complete nonsense.
But in terms of what could happen now, like Ashe says, there's so many other examples out there that need to be talked about some more, I think.
Mark: I think what I learned is that things were positive. I hope journalists who are watching this will see that you're not going to be lined up at a wall and shot. As you guys saw from the applause, we're not against you. We're just against bad journalism. That there's... there's a component who's anti-consumer and sort of just wants to make their own clubhouse.
If you're sincere and you make mistakes, we don't mind. We make mistakes too. And if anyone is young journalist student and you like games, go for it. Because now's the time. There's a demand for some better journalism.
Ren: I will admit if you talk about GamerGate on the internet, Adam Baldwin will misconstrue your words and tweet them back at you.
Koretzky: I'm familiar with that.
Ren: I'm here today because I don't... I think everything is worth talking about, right? I still am deeply skeptical of so many things involved with GamerGate, but it's great to hear that we were able to confirm there there are some ethical issues in journalism, and there are. There are ethical issues in plumbing. There are ethical issues in everything. We've pointed out some today. Awesome.
Lynn: For me I think it would just be to kind of stress the point that there are resources that are there that are free for any journalist, anyone writing whether you're gamer or not, and don't be afraid to contact those people. The ethics hotline... we literally for SPJ have someone that checks that almost everyday, or every other day. And they respond to it, whether it's an e-mail or phone call back. That's what we're here for, so use us. That would be the first thing I would say.
Two, me personally, feel free to ask [indecipherable]. I can definitely help. I'm one person though and I have a full-time job. But I definitely want to help further this conversation. I think as people... as gamers... I would also say talk about these issues. I think talking about it, talking about the coverage is good.
I also though would encourage, for me, being respectful I think is huge and it gets you a lot further than attacking in my opinion. It may be louder when you attack, but, if you're respectful people, I think people pay more attention.
So that would be the last thing that I didn't get a chance to say but I think it goes a lot further. And I think what Michael was saying about having someone to sort of maybe talk about these issues as sort of an expert or kind of an authority. When you do it with the respectful tone, but you still get your point across, I think it comes over and it's taken with more authority.
Derek: I just want to say that... at the end of the day, this is never going to end unless... until the journalists who're writing about gaming stop branding gamers, especially GamerGate, as a hate group. I've said this from day one: it's a non-starter.
Derek: I, as a gamer and game developer, I don't... I didn't believe it then, I don't believe it now, I will never believe it that GamerGate was ever about harassment, ever about misogyny, ever about any of these things.
Koretzky: You're on the afternoon panel and that's going to come up.
Derek: And that's all I have to say. All you have to do is look at it from the gaming standpoint and not from this... all this other noise because that's what sells.
Koretzky: Alright, so, after lunch, we're going to come back and we're going to talk about how to cover online controversies like GamerGate. This side stays the same, this side is going to be a little different. We have one hour for lunch. See everyone back here then. Thank you very much.