Robert Florence stepped down from Eurogamer after writing the following on journalists & PR.

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http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-10-24-lost-humanity-18-a-table-of-doritos

Eurogamer's Robert Florence stepped down from his job. Here's his piece about journalists, PR and the sad state of things.

Thoughts?

That image almost made me burst out laughing when I saw it. I was actually unaware that there was like an awards night event for gaming journalism. I've seen various websites celebrating gaming journalism, but that's about it.

Either way, why exactly did he step down? He called gaming journalism out on being kind of a shallow industry (outside of a few safe havens like ourselves and sites like the Escapist, to my mind)... people may disagree, but that's part of any industry, asking yourselves what you stand for.

John Walker's commentary on his stepping down may make things more clear.

In short: The piece is edited. He named some names and was more specific about stuff originally. He resigned over being required to edit that out. You can find links to the original from Walker's commentary.

Hypatian wrote:

John Walker's commentary on his stepping down may make things more clear.

In short: The piece is edited. He named some names and was more specific about stuff originally. He resigned over being required to edit that out. You can find links to the original from Walker's commentary.

Thank you. Leave it to Walker to restore some semblance of sanity in the world.

On a semi related note Ryan McCleod, who along with Rab made Consolevania, released ChuckieDregs a Consolevania like video a few weeks back.

I doubt it will happen but it'd be nice to see Rab and Ryan collaborate again.

There is really no such thing as gaming journalism. There are only various degrees of fanbois who just so happen to get paid (directly or indirectly) for writing about their hobby.

Florence's own article shows that's true by him wondering how some folks can do what they do if they don't "love" writing about games and gaming. Loving gaming isn't a requirement to be a journalist that covers the industry. In fact, it can be a liability. Walker's commentary that Hypatian linked to shows that there are game "journalists" who can't seem to separate their personal excitement about something from their job.

Florence's comments about standards was dead on, though. If gaming writers (I just can't call them journalists) want to be taken more seriously, then they need to establish professional standards. A wall has to be built between editorial and ad sales. The pubs or web sites have to be willing to take a revenue hit until the game publishers catch on that threatening to pull ads or not give previews of new games isn't going to get them results.

Unfortunately, I have little faith that that will happen because there's essentially zero tradition of real journalism in gaming media. There are only fans who became popular as the industry went from a being a niche thing to a multi-billion dollar industry. And the result is predictable: you have amateurs pitted against PR professionals backed by large budgets and plenty of schwag.

Full disclosure, I'm one of those horrible PR people (though not for the gaming industry). Whatever you may think about that, know this: even though I work in a niche markets where the journalists in the trade rags know--and are friendly--with us PR folks, I could never, ever get an editor or reporter to pose for a picture like Keighley did. That's crossing a journalistic line. But I also know I could get bloggers or other internet famous folks who cover our industry to do that at the drop of a hat just as long as there was a first-class plane ticket, a four-star hotel, and an expensive meal involved.

I suggest looking at a film called Heckler on Netflix. A significant portion of the film deals with criticism, critique, and media on media.

You have a confluence of issues at hand.

1. The web does not require "journalists" to in fact be journalists. Anyone and everyone can start a blog, web page, and get cracking.
2. Contemporary media is no better. The game is the sale of advertising, or papers. Bill O'Reilley is not a journalist. Glen Beck is not. But damn do they sell ad space.
3. Lionizing past journalism is folly and romanticizing a fiction. Walter Cronkite was a great journalist. But even in the 60's he was 1 of hundreds, thousands. Walter Cronkite is what we choose to remember from that era. Not the inumerable hacks that were his contemporaries. And we remember Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow because of the history they talked about, much more than the men themselves.
4. Most people who get involved in covering media, just want to get into the parties. It is an excuse to rub elbows with Tom Cruise and pretend you both are just regular folks for 5 minutes. People have asked where is the Lester Bangs of Game journalism. He was a kid who wanted to hang out with rock stars and do drugs.
5. Journalism rarely sells. Entertainment sells.

Any gripe people might state about any segment of media today, you could have said about radio, TV, Papers going back 300 years.

strangederby wrote:

Thoughts?

Florence is completely right. Walker too.

OG_slinger wrote:

Florence's own article shows that's true by him wondering how some folks can do what they do if they don't "love" writing about games and gaming. Loving gaming isn't a requirement to be a journalist that covers the industry. In fact, it can be a liability. Walker's commentary that Hypatian linked to shows that there are game "journalists" who can't seem to separate their personal excitement about something from their job.

I think that passion is a necessary part of the profession. The talents necessary to make it as a games writer would be worth twice as much in another field. Passion fills the pay gap.

For my part, I'm glad that GWJ gets to stay out of a lot of the tricker parts of this market. I'm also truly glad that we have a strong enough writing community and editorial process behind the scenes that we can stand behind what we put on the front page.

I am, however, thinking about drafting our own public ethics policy, because a lot of great writers get their start and first journalistic experience here. Polygon's is a pretty good start.

This doesn't really seem like P&C material, does it?

I think something that would also help is getting the majority of you ad revenue from outside the industry. People would be a lot freer to speak their minds about a game or the industry if most of the revenue was coming from Mountain Dew, Nike, Pizza Hut and Levi's instead of EA, Activision and 2K.

But in reality, as long as there is GWJ I don't see the need for an explosion of "games journalism". I mean does cooking need "food journalism"? Does painting or sculpting need "art journalism"? No for a lot of hobbies, there is a need for fan service or points of interest stories.

That does not mean I don't appreciate games journalism when I read it. I just think that if every games media outlet decided to become credible over night either there would be a lot less of them in the coming months or 90% would devolve back into fan service because they would all be broken records or they would reach so far into the fringe to differentiate themselves that they would become to hard to follow.

Malor wrote:

This doesn't really seem like P&C material, does it?

You must not have seen the poop flying on Twitter today.

fangblackbone wrote:

I think something that would also help is getting the majority of you ad revenue from outside the industry. People would be a lot freer to speak their minds about a game or the industry if most of the revenue was coming from Mountain Dew, Nike, Pizza Hut and Levi's instead of EA, Activision and 2K.

The inciting event here was a Doritos tie-in. Something like tweeting the hashtag you find inside a bag of Doritos for your chance to win a PS3. The notion that this occurred within the confines of a games writing industry event — that so many responded on command — certainly feels yucky.

Well that surely is a way to make a product more appealing to the gamer demographic. That the journalists fell into that trap is both idiotic and juvenile.

Although I guess I also don't understand people who are so zealous for a PS3 they lose their heads over it. These people have had ample opportunity to get a PS3 over the last several years and they have not gotten one. Well either should be reprimanded for their irresponsibility or at least be vocal and upfront about their bias.

fangblackbone wrote:

I think something that would also help is getting the majority of you ad revenue from outside the industry. People would be a lot freer to speak their minds about a game or the industry if most of the revenue was coming from Mountain Dew, Nike, Pizza Hut and Levi's instead of EA, Activision and 2K.

That has nothing to do with it.

Again, I work in niche markets. That means there's a handful of trade rags that cover the market and you can count the number of major advertisers those pubs have without taking off your shoes. And even though those pubs rely on those handful of companies to keep them afloat, there's still enough journalistic integrity in them that you could never see one of their editors or reporters posing in front of an ad for your company's product.

That's the point. The vast, vast majority of game pubs and websites aren't the New York Times. They're Tiger Beat and Us Weekly. Their entire point of existence is to be a non-judgmental mouthpiece for the game publishers.

wordsmythe wrote:

You must not have seen the poop flying on Twitter today.

I'm enough of a twit all on my own, I don't need them too.

OG_slinger wrote:

There is really no such thing as gaming journalism. There are only various degrees of fanbois who just so happen to get paid (directly or indirectly) for writing about their hobby.

No.

Read this. It's the code of conduct for the National Union of Journalists.

http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.h...

Each time you listen to a HatchetJob show, you're listening to something that's been recorded with that code in mind. Each time you listen to one of our interviews, it's been edited for accuracy and fairness.

I've got to agree with 1Dgaf in that there are some people who are very much journalists. For instance the staff at Gamasutra is rather journalistic.

1Dgaf wrote:
OG_slinger wrote:

There is really no such thing as gaming journalism. There are only various degrees of fanbois who just so happen to get paid (directly or indirectly) for writing about their hobby.

No.

Read this. It's the code of conduct for the National Union of Journalists.

http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.h...

Each time you listen to a HatchetJob show, you're listening to something that's been recorded with that code in mind. Each time you listen to one of our interviews, it's been edited for accuracy and fairness.

So you've never accepted a preview version or free copy of a game for review? You've never attended a media event where you've gotten transpo, food, or lodging comped entirely or in part by the publisher? Or, if you have, you've informed your listeners about everything you received? And you've never had to go through a PR contact in order to get an interview with a game developer or executive?

If you've said yes to any of those things, then you've essentially violated the code of conduct. And that's the point. You can't do your job unless there's a PR person from a publisher or developer helping you out. You aren't really doing journalism, you're just part of the publisher's marketing campaign.

Hell, when I first started out in PR--pre-internet days, sadly--my sole job was to send free products from my client to anyone that did anything remotely arts and crafty. That strategy paid off because one of those people ended up on Oprah's show talking about how my client's product could be used to make Christmas decorations. That show ended up with Oprah saying "girlfriend, you have to get one of these." While I may have sent out a couple thousand dollars in free product, that one endorsement literally made my client $17 million. That's why there's PR.

And that's the dance. Game "journalists" want access and advance notice so they can get the hits, downloads, or views and game publishers want the same. PR people put them together so that both their selfish motives are met.

garion333 wrote:

I've got to agree with 1Dgaf in that there are some people who are very much journalists. For instance the staff at Gamasutra is rather journalistic.

Quite. My video game news/reviews-readin' has boiled down to Gamasutra, RPS (and I'm not even a PC gamer, the writing's that good), Edge, and Eurogamer. Um, go British games writing?

RIP, Kieron Gillen.

OG_slinger wrote:
1Dgaf wrote:
OG_slinger wrote:

There is really no such thing as gaming journalism. There are only various degrees of fanbois who just so happen to get paid (directly or indirectly) for writing about their hobby.

No.

Read this. It's the code of conduct for the National Union of Journalists.

http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.h...

Each time you listen to a HatchetJob show, you're listening to something that's been recorded with that code in mind. Each time you listen to one of our interviews, it's been edited for accuracy and fairness.

So you've never accepted a preview version or free copy of a game for review? You've never attended a media event where you've gotten transpo, food, or lodging comped entirely or in part by the publisher? Or, if you have, you've informed your listeners about everything you received? And you've never had to go through a PR contact in order to get an interview with a game developer or executive?

If you've said yes to any of those things, then you've essentially violated the code of conduct. And that's the point. You can't do your job unless there's a PR person from a publisher or developer helping you out. You aren't really doing journalism, you're just part of the publisher's marketing campaign.

Hell, when I first started out in PR--pre-internet days, sadly--my sole job was to send free products from my client to anyone that did anything remotely arts and crafty. That strategy paid off because one of those people ended up on Oprah's show talking about how my client's product could be used to make Christmas decorations. That show ended up with Oprah saying "girlfriend, you have to get one of these." While I may have sent out a couple thousand dollars in free product, that one endorsement literally made my client $17 million. That's why there's PR.

And that's the dance. Game "journalists" want access and advance notice so they can get the hits, downloads, or views and game publishers want the same. PR people put them together so that both their selfish motives are met.

Roger Ebert doesn't go to the theater to watch the movies he reviews does he?

garion333 wrote:

Roger Ebert doesn't go to the theater to watch the movies he reviews does he?

No, he doesn't. Which is kinda my point. PR people make it as easy as possible for him to see movies because they know the value of getting him to review their movies. Screenings just don't arrange themselves.

But that overlooks the point that neither Florence, Walker, or 1Dgaf (no offense meant) are remotely on the same level as Ebert. Ebert's position is the result of 45 years of reviewing thousands and thousands of movies. He's likely the only person the average American could name if asked to name a movie reviewer (and yet his name would still likely come in behind Roger...). Who, exactly, in gaming media is remotely comparable to the reputation Roger Ebert has established?

Beyond that, Ebert wasn't always a film critic. He cut his journalistic teeth as a reporter for his high school newspaper, his college newspaper, and was actually a legit reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times before moving over into film criticism. He has journalistic training and experience that is clearly not common among the gaming media.

Seriously, there are 19 year-old Youtube Let's Players who get invited to gaming media events now. Do you really think they're objective after they've been flown around the world (often for the first time) and wined and dined? Of course not. They neither have the journalistic training to be objective nor do they give a sh*t. It's simply a cool experience that gives them some more content for the bottomless pit that is their channel.

1Dgaf wrote:

I have. I also make it clear to the company the review will be honest and we will not review to their deadline. The review is done when it's done and they have no influence over our opinion. Not negotiable.

So I have two lines of thought on your comment.

The first is as a PR guy. Would I prefer you conduct your review in the first couple of days after a game has been released? Of course. Is that a deal breaker? Of course not.

I'd have still given you a free copy of the game because it creates an obligation between us. I gave you a game worth fifty or sixty bucks for free. Are you really going to do nothing with it, especially when your audience likely wants to hear your opinion of it? Of course not. You'll feel compelled to do a review of it. And that is the exact reason I gave you the game (which cost the publisher, my boss or client, effectively nothing, BTW) in the first place.

Not only that, but the fact that I gave you a free copy of the game means it's much more likely to be reviewed by you because you don't actually have to expend any effort or money on buying the game in the first place.

And that leads me to my second point, which is real journalistic rules prohibit all of the above. I've had journalists turn down my offers of free airfare and hotel to a conference my company was hosting. Why? Because if it was actually newsworthy enough their publication would pay to send them. It's the same with games. Pay for the games you review. That way there's no whiff of questionable ethics at all.

1Dgaf wrote:

At the start of each review, I say that the game was a review copy and did not pay for it. I hope listeners understand that there's a chance of bias and treat the review with suitable skepticism.

And yet there's a decent chance that game got a review instead of one you actually had to pay for yourself...

1Dgaf wrote:

I'd say no, but you decide.

I got hold of Mitch Gitelman, previously of FASA and then head of first party development for XBLA, by tracking him down on Facebook. He put me in touch with his PR people, but nothing happened. So I got back in touch with him and he got things sorted.

He put you in touch with his PR people because that's the restraint just about every executive operates under: you can't talk to anyone unless the marketing department says it's OK. Let's just say it avoids unpleasant surprises...

That his PR people didn't get back in touch with you means (again, no offense meant) that your podcast wasn't considered significant enough for them to get involved with. Had it been so, you would have had a very responsible person get in touch with you and arrange everything. As it was, his PR department likely said "the HatchetJob podcast, let alone any podcast, isn't on our radar, so we don't honestly care if you talk to them or not."

Kudos for Gitelman for being a mensch and doing the interview.

1Dgaf wrote:

I got hold of Trip Hawkins - he founded EA - because I'd introduced myself to him in a corridor a few years beforehand.

Here is the thread: http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1...

I'm unclear. Did Hawkins come on your podcast because the event you described in the thread or was you handing him a piece of paper about GWJ the extent of the interaction?

You know, Ebert isn't the only film critic that gets a free lunch. Studios arrange press screenings, which include dozens of invites to critics local to the venue, all the time. It's so well established as the standard operating procedure that a number of critics (such as James Berardinelli, to pick a name out of a hat) will mention when they aren't reviewing a movie via press screening...because movies that fall into that category are typically held back to avoid poor reviews that might impact sales.

To suggest that Ebert is the only film critic that benefits from complimentary content -- and to do so in service of a tortured analogy with gaming, an entirely different medium with entirely different challenges for consumption -- is ridiculous.

Also Ebert is an old man who doesn't understand games he should play Shadow of the Colossus!

Wait, what am I supposed to be getting mad about?

(J/k, not taking the piss, I get mad about all these things.)

OzymandiasAV wrote:

You know, Ebert isn't the only film critic that gets a free lunch. Studios arrange press screenings, which include dozens of invites to critics local to the venue, all the time. It's so well established as the standard operating procedure that a number of critics (such as James Berardinelli, to pick a name out of a hat) will mention when they aren't reviewing a movie via press screening...because movies that fall into that category are typically held back to avoid poor reviews that might impact sales.

To suggest that Ebert is the only film critic that benefits from complimentary content -- and to do so in service of a tortured analogy with gaming, an entirely different medium with entirely different challenges for consumption -- is ridiculous.

I'm not suggesting that Ebert is the only reviewer that get's a screening. Like I said screenings are arranged to increase the number of people--legitimate media or not--who might mention the film because there is no such thing as bad publicity.

The problem I have is with people pretending there's such a thing as gaming journalism. Although he's been trained as a journalist, Ebert isn't a journalist. He's a critic. But he's a professional critic. And that's far, far removed from the gaming media mentioned in the articles.

Perhaps you didn't read my first comment. Florence's comments were dead on: there are no standards to gaming journalism today. Meaning they aren't actually journalists or even critics. At best they are fans with a pulpit.

I'm completely fine with gaming media folks saying they are critics. I'm not OK with them trying to pretend they're journalists. They aren't going to reveal the next Deep Throat, they're just going to do the same review of a game that won't be remembered in five years that thousands of other folks are doing. Again, game media folks are simply the Tiger Beat and Us Weekly's of the gaming industry. They fulfill an industry purpose, but they aren't going to change the world.

KingGorilla wrote:

3. Lionizing past journalism is folly and romanticizing a fiction. Walter Cronkite was a great journalist. But even in the 60's he was 1 of hundreds, thousands. Walter Cronkite is what we choose to remember from that era. Not the inumerable hacks that were his contemporaries. And we remember Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow because of the history they talked about, much more than the men themselves.

I pretty much agree with everything you've said but this. While it is true that there were hacks in every era, the mid-to-late 90s onward brought on a resurgence of non-objective and yellow journalism that would not have flown in the 70s and 80s (at least, not in the papers that mattered). Sure, maybe you can only look to post WWI to the the late 80s, but there are periods in which the journalism profession adhered more closely to it's storied idealism.

eh, on second thought.

OG_slinger wrote:

Perhaps you didn't read my first comment. Florence's comments were dead on: there are no standards to gaming journalism today. Meaning they aren't actually journalists or even critics. At best they are fans with a pulpit.

I'm completely fine with gaming media folks saying they are critics. I'm not OK with them trying to pretend they're journalists. They aren't going to reveal the next Deep Throat, they're just going to do the same review of a game that won't be remembered in five years that thousands of other folks are doing. Again, game media folks are simply the Tiger Beat and Us Weekly's of the gaming industry. They fulfill an industry purpose, but they aren't going to change the world.

No, I didn't miss your initial comment. And, though I don't think the idea itself is a world-shaking revelation, I do agree with the spirit of Florence's piece that calls out for a higher standard for discourse and reporting in the gaming media.

But I strongly disagree with the idea that there are no journalists in gaming. It's not Deep Throat, but Patrick Klepek's reporting on Project IceBreaker at GiantBomb is a great example of investigative journalism in gaming media; Frank Cifaldi at Gamasutra broke the news that Zynga dumped 100 employees earlier this week.

One of the points that came up during the "poop flying" that followed this piece on Twitter is that gaming media is not a zero-sum game. Yes, there are a number of outlets that subsist on more enthusiast musings, just like there are in any other creative medium. However, the existence of those sites, as well as the audience that they serve, does not negate the hard work of other folks that create quality editorial and investigative content around the clock. There is room for all of it and, if you're willing to look, all of it is out there.

Just wanted to throw this one out.

Cliff's Notes. The Seattle Times is selling political ads. Many reporters have signed letters of protest.

And I have 5 bucks on under 4 posts before someone says sales and editorial have nothing to do with each other.

OzymandiasAV wrote:

But I strongly disagree with the idea that there are no journalists in gaming. It's not Deep Throat, but Patrick Klepek's reporting on Project IceBreaker at GiantBomb is a great example of investigative journalism in gaming media; Frank Cifaldi at Gamasutra broke the news that Zynga dumped 100 employees earlier this week.

So investigative journalism now consists of looking at Twitter posts or reading emails (admittedly weeks later) that were sent by another PR rep?

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