eSports is a new and exciting field. I imagine it must be somewhat like Alaska during the gold rush. Sure you had miners coming to try and get gold, but you also had anyone and everyone who even thought they could make a quick buck tagging along. The problem with this was that the gentleman who might have been serving as your doctor in a small town near the minefields might not have been the most qualified doctor in the field. I mean why would you give up a well established practice somewhere warm to venture out to a new frontier? Exactly, an established practitioner wouldn’t risk it. That is why you often would see “professionals” who were far from it.
The same phenomena can be seen in eSports journalism. Let me first say that there are some fantastic, first rate reporters and eSports news organizations out there. These folks may not be classically trained journalists but they came in with a passion and they have worked at their trade diligently – making a name for themselves in the process. On the other hand, you have many “journalists” who are anything but. Sure they like to write, and yes they occasionally stumble on to a story, but the quality of their pieces can leave a lot to be desired.
I guess what really astounds me isn’t so much that these articles struggle when held against a real journalistic standard. What really astounds me is how many people mindlessly believe what these articles are saying. Today I was on reddit, not exactly a hotspot for intellectual debate I will admit but still, and came across this article. It’s a bit of a long one, I’m sorry. If you’re a fan of pro League I promise it will at least entertain you. If you’re not a fan of pro league, but consider yourself any kind of writer or journalist, I challenge you to read through it and see if the way it is written doesn’t bother you. On top of the basic spelling and grammatical errors, which I won’t dwell on because I make them too, here are a few other things I noticed that set off my bullshit alert.
Firstly, and this one is only valid for eSports followers, Richard Lewis isn’t exactly one of the most well established eSports writers out there. His name is not one we normally associate with inside stories on the League, or to my knowledge any, pro scene. I think this should give us reason to pause especially when combined with…
Second, the author never once even hints to us who his sources might be. It certainly sounds like he is talking to someone inside the organization, as he claims, but how inside are they? There are certainly hints that it might be someone who is currently feeling alienated from the organization, but there is no guarantee they are still with Vulcan or are privy to all of its inner workings. An interview with an angry or upset employee on the outs makes for a great story but not necessarily something that is super accurate.
Finally, I can’t help but feel that the author is quite biased against Kenma and perhaps Vulcan as a whole. He uses words like “fiasco” to describe what the coach is creating and talks of Kenma’s “Gibberish.” This doesn’t sound like objective reporting. This sounds like a friend of Bloodwater’s who is trying to defend or avenge him. Or perhaps it sounds like someone who, as the author willingly admits, has already had a run in with the XDG owner, Alexander.
I’m not trying to be rude or disrespectful to Mr. Lewis. My problem is with all the people immediately taking this story to be gospel when there are clearly elements of it that should be cause for concern. Similiarly, I don’t think the story should be dismissed or the author boycotted or anything extreme like that. He is telling the story in a way that he views is appropriate and fits with his style of reporting. I am just pointing out that some of the things he does, like the way he labels and describes certain parties, can lead us to call into question his objectivity – something that many of us consider to be very important to being a journalist.
It’s kind of funny that the author appears to have released this next piece http://www.esportsheaven.com/articles/view/id/5148#.UwfssYVyFwm basically minutes after his XDG story was put out. I actually liked this “explanation” piece a lot better. He does a good job of explaining where himself and his organization are coming from and also discusses some of the pitfalls and troubles that you will face in the kind of reporting he is doing. He is never apologetic or dismissive of his own work. He just explains some of the troubles with writing on this subject. Does this change the fact that he writes like he is biased? Nope. Should it encourage you to stop questioning what he or any other scene reporter is writing? Nope.
Actually, does anyone else find it kind of strange that they released these two pieces, according to their timestamps, within minutes of each other? At the risk of sounding really paranoid, I would even almost contend that the pieces read like they were written by different people…but that’s just me stirring the pot a bit too much. 😉
Lewis ends his second piece by saying “So, as you can see, it’s a lot of effort and stress for not a lot of reward, far easier to “play ball” and put out the pre-approved pieces…But when you lash out at the reporters who are writing as much for you as they are for their own pay-cheque you only encourage a culture of silence occasionally punctured by slick PR.”
Fair enough, Mr. Lewis. It is good that you are telling the story, and until they outlaw freedom of speech and the press, I don’t think anyone should ever be unhappy with you for doing the writing you do. At the same time, until the day comes when eSports journalism is as syndicated as all other forms of journalism and even beyond that day, I don’t think people should ever let you have a free ride just because you are willing to write the “tough” stories. Even the most well established journalists in the world still have their personal integrity and the integrity of their pieces questioned on a regular basis. That is, as you say, “part of the rich tapestry of journalism as a whole.”
To my fellow eSports lovers, don’t be afraid to question what you read and hold writers like Mr. Lewis to the same standards you would hold any other reporter to. I don’t care how new the field is and how tough the stories are. If we want eSports reporting to continue to evolve and improve we need to continue to push the writers towards better standards of integrity and objectivity. That, my friends, is exactly how we continue to push the eSports that we love towards the mainstream and why we should always ask questions!
PS: As a PR practitioner myself I resent Mr. Lewis’ “slick PR” remark, but I understand why he made it. What is he is saying is that without journalists there would be no one to hold us PR folks accountable, regardless of the fact that most of what we say is even more thoroughly scrutinized by the public than what many journalists say. I would just like to remind Mr. Lewis that reporters can do the same crummy things that some crummy PR people do – especially in today’s media market with shrinking newsrooms and tight bottom lines threatening reporters. Both the media and PR practitioners should always be striving to reach a high level of public accountability. Neither side should ever get a free pass from that, or be viewed as any more “slick” than the other side.