Editorial: What Is Gaming Journalism?
A few days ago, I was talking to someone I used to work with at the newspaper, who asked me very specifically if video game journalism had "advanced at all." We've spoken about this subject in the past and we typically end the argument in a stalemate. Let me see if I can explain.
The rules for news reporting are very clear. They are always unwavering; written in stone; impossible to break or even alter in the slightest way. A reporter isn't allowed to have an opinion; he or she really can't even use descriptive adjectives, as they can be construed as personal opinion or commentary. A reporter provides the public with the facts and nothing more. I know this because I worked with the newspapers for several years, handling everything from local news to full entertainment features for various industries, including music and comedy. So for instance, if I'm doing a feature on a concert coming to town, at no point am I allowed to voice my pleasure or displeasure for the artist in question. Technically, I'm really not even supposed to say that fans "really loved" the last performance; that's speculation and can't easily be proved.
This is how news is supposed to be and I have the greatest respect for the institution of journalism and print media in general. I think it's terrible that papers may be seeing the end of their days, and just because I have more than a few publishing credits doesn't give me the illusion that I can write for the New York Times. If you wish to find the best journalists in the world, look there. I would never say they're not skilled nor would I say we should take the rules of journalism into question merely because the Internet has arrived. Now, the purists (and elitists) will quickly get on your back if you provide news to the public the way we - and many other sites - do, in that we inject opinion and even speculation into news articles. I will freely admit to doing that, but I must ask first and foremost that people not assume I'm doing this because I'm ignorant of the rules. I'm not...we approach the news in a different way on purpose.
Here's the thing, and you are more than welcome to disagree. A website is not a newspaper or any other piece of print media. You don't have to make any distinction between the two, but we see it this way: the website, especially these days, is a living, breathing community that often lives and dies not with the content, but often with the people involved on bothsides. We see it as a large group of friends, who are going to discuss a topic that we provide. Those who write the articles here - and there are only a few of us - must be available and visible to the readers because they aren't just readers; they're community members. Their feedback provides us with valuable insight. We often steer the content in the direction of reader interest; in other words, if we see the community express an inordinate amount of interest in Demon's Souls, we will make news and info for that game more of a priority. Then there is the personal angle.
We want you to know who we are, and it must go beyond the occasional editorial. We also think we're experts in the field in which we report; I was never an expert on the damn housing commission in the area nor could I ever consider myself knowledgeable enough to write for Rolling Stone (despite the number of music features I produced). In this case, we believe the website - especially those geared toward a specific group, like PSXE with PlayStation fans - must have a cohesive, interactive community, and our views are part of the news. So if we report on a Bayonetta sequel in the future, we will remind you that the PS3 version of that game was inferior. We might even say it "sucked compared to the 360 version." The rules of journalism state we're not allowed to do that, but we believe it's crucial to this living, breathing online culture. We will never distort or stretch the facts in any way; you will always get the facts straight from any press release or source we have. But you can also expect a small interpretation of those facts.
Interpretation. It's the cardinal sin of journalism. There are those who will hate what we do; that we're literally spitting in the face of an established institution. But the Internet spits in the face of just about everything, as far as I'm concerned, and we live and die by our community. If you only want the bare facts and nothing more, read the news at GameSpot. Go right ahead; I'm not stopping you. But if you want to become involved in something and feel like more than simply an outsider looking in, and know that your participating has a direct impact on the content that is produced, come here and have a chat. We don't allow the hostility and stupidity that infects many gaming websites - sadly, there are those who never grow up - and I think PSXE has really surged with this growing community of civilized, knowledgeable PlayStation fans. And it just keeps growing; it's a pleasure to watch.
Is this approach holding the industry back? Should the difference between a website and a piece of print media even be relevant? If you think what we're doing is reprehensible, I will not say you're wrong. I won't even necessarily disagree. But I will ask you to look around and actually read what's here - the Comments are part of everything; they're part of us - and then decide if we're performing a disservice. I think 99% of our community love and respect what we do, and return because they connect with us and feel like they matter...that's not an altogether unimpressive achievement. Lie to you, we will never. Toss in a little comment to augment a story, we will. In the end, my ex-co-worker, who believes as strongly as I do in the integrity of journalism, admits my situation is very different. He even says he'd probably do the exact same thing. But he struggles with the concept and in all honesty, so do I.
Those who wish to deride may do so. They're entitled and they have a valid point. All I ask is that you look around long enough to determine if things are "childish;" read our reviews, check out our features and above all else, say hi and have a seat for a bit. After that, if you don't like what you see, that's fine. No hard feelings. But at the very least, don't assume we - or any other site that acts as we do - take a slipshod approach to journalism simply because we're ignorant. Thank you for reading.
2/12/2010 Ben Dutka