Monday, 19 November 2012

The Double-Edged Sword

Thoughts on what might be both the largest help and hindrance to gaming journalism

This is going to be another one of those semi-serious business type posts, just to let everyone know off the bat.

I can take being called many things, I've been called many things and simply not cared. What I cannot stand though, is being called a hypocrite. Something about the concept just bothers me, and yet, as I'm writing this I cannot help but acknowledge that what I'm going to talk about may very well make me one. A rather large one in fact. You see, it's not necessarily what I'm going to talk about, but rather the medium itself that I use to deliver it and roughly 100% of the content to any potential audience.

That's right: I'm calling out the Internet itself.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that the Internet has done a great many wonderful things for gaming as a whole and gaming journalism in particular. Having online communities has lead in some cases to a greater degree of accountability, greater transparency, and better consumer/business relationships. Journalists can now also have access to and the ability to post brand new information daily, whereas before a person might have to wait a month or more to get a single story published in a magazine, by which time the story may no longer even be relevant.

It would be wrong to thus say that I am blaming the Internet itself. Rather, it is only a tool to be used as people see fit. The problem is, I believe, in the attitude that it has fostered in some cases.

Getting multiple stories daily can be a good thing, but more often than not these days what I think it ultimately leads to is sloppy journalism and situations spiralling out of control thanks to the instantaneous nature of the medium.

The most pertinent example I can think of recently was the whole Tropes vs. Women in Video Games incident. I'm still reserving judgment for the final results (although I will admit that some of what I've read and seen worries me greatly), but I think that the whole thing got blown out of proportion very quickly due to the knee-jerk reaction of a lot of sites to scramble to cover every aspect of it as quickly as possible.

There have been accusations of lazy, inept, and biased journalism stemming from this. I have no doubt that the debates will continue, and among the list are people who's views I have come to respect. Now, did I wake up today loving these people and now go to sleep hating them? No, that would be stupid. I will say though that it raised more than a reasonable doubt in my mind, not to the potential ethics of some of these people, but rather the problems that are caused by clamouring to stay up to date with a story as it happens in real time.

I have said that reviewing games does require some bias, because what you find fun might not be what I find fun. Certainly there are objective quantities to be judged, but a lot of it comes down personal factors. The same, however, cannot or perhaps should not be said about covering the news. It is the ideal of journalism to present the facts in as unbiased a way as possible and let the audience draw their own conclusions.

I would argue that when you're trying to cover a story, that when it's potentially getting new information and layers added to it in hours or even minutes, that fact-checking and trying to remain objective while meeting the demand to get the information to the public becomes and almost impossible set of clashing goals.

I'm not above any of this, not even close. I report using the same sources, or sometimes even sources twice removed. I would like to think that I think objectively about what I write, however whether or not I've been unbiased when I've intended to be is something that I'm not entirely sure I've achieved. I have admitted in the past to being completely biased, and would like to think that it does give some honesty, but it also makes for some terrible journalism.

Can I change anything? I don't know. I'd like to. But can I even change my own flaws? Only time will tell.

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