Monday, 4 February 2013

Editorial: My (Fake) Condolences

I posted a few comments to my Twitter feed the other day that I thought deserved some special attention. The tweets took to task the enthusiast press to task for including “well wishes” in a News post. For a form of media – the gaming enthusiast press – that wants to be taken seriously and leaps to a high horse every time their integrity is questioned due to (usually) a self incriminating blog post, tweet or note on LinkedIn, it seems in conflict with what they actually write.

Why let emotions seep into reporting on games? I’m sure if you look back far enough, I’ve probably done the same thing. “I hope everyone lands on their feet” or some other meaningless line after a studio closure. But why should a “game journo” care about what happens to the employees at Junction Point? THQ? Radical?

Imagine watching a newscast or flipping through Consumer Reports and a story finishes with:
“We here at Network News offer our sincere condolences and prayers to those affected by the recent banana attacks in the lower east side. We hope you all find solace in one another and that any pain and mushed fruit injuries heal quickly. We hope you land on your feet."
Or a report on a closure of a steel plant or car assembly plant:
“We here at Network News hope those culled by Big Business find new jobs elsewhere and land on their feet.”
Why is it different for the gaming enthusiast press?
With a Network News-type scenario, reporters get out there and talk to people. Verify the facts (hopefully), get the reaction from those affected, get some pictures. As a viewer, you’re still getting the story filtered through the eyes and lens of a reporter and editor but there’s no endorsement at the end of the report setting the stage for how a reader/viewer/listener is supposed to feel about it. If I want opinion and emotion, I’ll hit up a blog of a writer I respect or turn to the op/ed section of the paper. Or, so help me, a video game message board.

If you want to be taken seriously, how about you do that by taking steps to remove your own opinion from News posts?

Maybe that’s your shtick, the angle you take for gathering a cult of personality around you. Maybe that’s how you cope with rewriting your 10th press release as “news.” You reap what you sow in this case. If you’re not taking it seriously, then why do you think the general gaming public will take you seriously.

If the enthusiast press as it exist in its capacity to report News ever wants to see a change in attitude by the general gaming public it has to shed this idea that because they’re “part of” the industry they have to offer emotional footnotes in the story about feeling, “Sorry, for all those affected.”

It’s entirely possible, even likely, that News editors at the larger sites know some of the people affected by a studio closure or a game cancellation and maybe he or she does feel genuine sadness for those affected but that doesn’t mean their feelings should be reported.

In the world of Reporting it takes some pretty earth-shattering moments to crack the shield of The Facts, where some emotion bleeds into a newscast. Clips from the news the day JFK was shot and the moon landing offer some insight into the magnitude of things that were happening. Newscasters taking off their glasses, weeping a little in joy or grief, and then composing themselves to carry on. Somehow, I don’t think this is happening to the enthusiast press when EA lays-off a 100 people.

Feeling anger, resentment, joy, happiness is okay for reporters. But stick to the facts if you ever want to be taken seriously and shrug off attacks on your credibility. Don’t let emotion and well wishes come into play. It devalues your reporting and is a professional slight to others in your field.

- Aaron Simmer