Category → Churnalism
..so it must be true!
Worse yet, the increasingly break-neck pace of internet news reporting – and the feedback loop it often turns into – has turned even some of the more wacky conspiracies into an odd kind of accepted wisdom. Monday’s left-of-field interpretation of an event becomes Tuesday’s “well, obviously!” comment on a thousand blogs (each just parroting the last, but none willing to admit it), and by Wednesday it’s enshrined on Wikipedia as historical fact.
A moment of clarity provided by GamesIndustry.biz in an article covering the Resident Evil: Mercenaries single-save ‘fiasco’.
Dear Self Important Idiot,
If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s the importance of good communication. Discussing your concerns with people that have no means to address them is nothing more than moaning. Dressing up a rant as an open letter is merely an effort to legitimise your verbiage as something more than it is.
Posing as a concerned consumer wishing for something better is made worthless by the fact you’re refusing to speak to the people you claim to be addressing. In fact, presenting an open letter on your own website suggests that you feel that whoever it is you’re addressing should be coming to you rather than you going to them. That’s big of you, I must say.
Really, an open letter presented in such a way is little more than a manipulative rant presented not to those you should be addressing but to an audience of regular readers that you know will back you up. After all, that’s why you’re putting it on your own site in front of your regular audience instead of, say, the people who can do anything about whatever it is you’re moaning about.
This all fits very neatly into the popular internet pursuit of having your opinions validated by others. If you feel you need more of that, you go for it. Just be more honest with yourself and admit what you’re doing rather than charade as someone doing something for the benefit of others.
If you genuinely wanted to raise the issue and get feedback on what can be done to improve things, you’d take your concerns to the people you’re addressing. You’re not doing that. You’ve failed to communicate effectively. What a shame. Nothing will change. Then you can write another open letter later on the topic of why the people you addressed in your earlier open letter are evil because they ignore the people that write open letters about them.
..and I’m still on pretty much the same topic.
This is one of the most true things I’ve read all year:
The fact of the matter is that even the largest video game journalism outlets are pampered. They are too used to the conveniences of internet publishing: editing after publication, deleting dissenting comments, removing and banning problem users, easily finding (or stealing) image and text content from other similar journalism outlets or PR departments; so much so that they’ve developed the intellectual and critical tolerance of a preschooler. They make a mistake — sometimes small, sometimes egregiously massive — and are called out on it, get angry, pitch a fit, then after suckling from the teat of their overly sympathetic, equally misinformed fans, coworkers and thin-skinned apologists, they forget about it. They move on, ignorant to their actual mistake, and ignorant to what they could have learned from it; all the while assuming they were right and their critic was wrong and that the critic can take their “trolling/bashing/hating” for a long walk off a short cliff for all they care.
I might write something myself one day soon. Maybe.
I’ve expressed on more than one occaision my utter disdain at the state of the games media today.
A lot of this stems from watching all these hack ‘journalists’ letting their egos and bias get in the way of what’s most important – the information. Reading some new article presented as a 800 word fictional short-story depicting two people talking in a pub about a piece of information is 95% ego. If you want to write fiction then you’re in the wrong career. If you want a break from copy and pasting PR statements then, by all means, get another job. Don’t think your effort at ‘proper writing’ in the completely wrong context is what anyone actually wants to read. It’s like watching some no-hoper audition in X-factor claiming ruining an iconic song, crashing, burning, looking like an idiot and then claiming they sing their way instead of the proper way because “I make the song my own”.
There’s the point.
And there’s about 50 miles between the two.
I even read a recent article on one of those “gotta post everything” games blogs asking its readers if games were being spoiled by having too much information about them made available too early. At no point did the author ever consider that the gaming websites such as their own play a fundamental part in the oversaturation of information. No – it was everyone else’s fault but theirs.
Lack of accountability. What a cushy number that is. “But I’m just the messenger, I’m not to blame”. Bullshit and you know it.
So, out of nowhere comes a gaming news website that has no ego and no bias. Hell, there’s not even a flock of so called gaming intelligensia to argue over each other’s misinformed guesswork after every post.
It’s just a picture, a statement and absolutely nothing else. Draw your own conclusions. Think for yourself. What a lovely change from the rest!
As 2009 draws to a close a cliched but ever-popular piece of editorial schtick is to present a list of resolutions. If you’re arrogant enough you’ll make resolutions on behalf of others. What better way to show off how you could do someone else’s job far better than them by suggesting how they should improve themselves?
Here we go!
1. Stop trying to inject your personality into factual information
You may believe that the time of the superstar journalist is upon us but only you and your industry mates feel that way. Everyone else in the world will only care who you are when they disagree with something you’ve written and want a name to attack. If you were as entertaining as your ego suggests then you’d be an entertainer and not tied to a keyboard instead.
2. Decide whether you’re an amateur or a professional. You can’t be both
Don’t badger a corporation with the journalistic mantra that “the people need to know the truth” if you’re not going to uphold that standard. I don’t want to see you adopting the mantle of a freedom fighter pensmith on Monday if you’re going to dismiss criticism of your work on Tuesday with claims that you’re “just a blogger”. Show some fucking backbone and be accountable for what you say and do.
3. Reduce the amount of double-standards you exhibit
If you’re going to expose Fox News or The Mirror for over-sensationalising games and misinforming their readers with poorly researched information or half-truths then it’d be nice if you practiced less of that sort of thing yourself. I’ve read many an article this year that’s originated from a small detail and has since been embellished and distorted by the journalist to a ridiculous degree and their audience, not knowing any better, have simply accepted the guesswork as fact. Stop it.
4. Stop complaining about having to do your job
Nobody is making you post a news article about a teaser site with a countdown clock on it. Just because you and your kin feel obliged to report every piece of minutia that occurs in order to feed your ad revenue, your commission and avoid the risk of one of your equally OCD competitors running a story that you overlooked (oh no!) it doesn’t mean it’s anybody else’s problem but yours. If you don’t want to report it then don’t report it. If you have to report it because that’s the nature of your work then don’t complain about the content of what you’re reporting. Do your job – just like the rest of the world. Just because you’ve an audience you can manipulate as part of the process in order to spin yourself some sympathy or conjure up some criticism doesn’t mean you should whenever it suits you to.
5. Spend less time in Photoshop or on Google Image Search and more time in your word processor
Whilst we’re at it let’s also stop rotating every header image to a jaunty 30 degree angle. It’s about as welcome as lens-flare in games was by the end of the ’90s. On the off-chance that your header image is directly representative of the content of your article then your rotation of it isn’t only unnecessary but counter-productive.
6. Stop removing context
When you run a sensationalist story based on four lines of a five page interview you’re removing context. Plonking a link to the source material at the end of the article is not good enough – you’ve already done the damage and you know it. People don’t suddenly blurt things out all the time, they usually respond to questions from people. Often those people are journalists. But when you carefully remove the question, selectively quote and sensationalise part of an answer in order to make it seem spontaneous and incendiary then you’re just a worthless hack favouring misinformation over information. Don’t fob this off as some sort of necessity – it’s not like you’re not limited to article length online We see evidence of this when you copy-and-paste a large press release and announce it as news. Special mention goes to hack-journalists that actually edit out words from sentences so as to alter context.
7. Have the courtesy to allow your readers to think for themselves
To some it’s a daunting thought that their people may start thinking for themselves but it ought to be encouraged. I don’t want to see an article that’s actually just a game trailer with your opinion that it’s awesome stated in the headline. If it interests me then I’ll view it and determine my own opinion. I don’t need your attempts to colour it being broadcast at me. Likewise, your guesswork about a forthcoming game and whether you think it’ll be good or not is not factual and is just opinion. People often confuse the two and its not surprising given the number of news articles that, more often than not are not news.
8. Proof-read your work
This goes double if you’re even thinking about adopting a stance of being classified as a professional. Yes, people make spelling and grammatical errors when writing on the internet. Often this is in casual communication. If you’re an author of anything that is intended for mass readership then learn to spell or, at the very least, learn how to spell check. There’s no excuse for this sort of crap, it’s not like you’re debugging tens of thousands of lines of someone else’s code is it?
9. Get and check your facts before publishing them
If any news article gets edited after publication with an “UPDATE” getting inserted into it and corrections having to be edited in then you should never have published the original article in the first place. If the facts weren’t available then don’t publish it. If the facts are actually just a bit of bias, guesswork and a tip-off from someone you can blame as an ‘anonymous source’ then, again, it wasn’t ready to publish.
10. Don’t you dare dictate to others what they should or shouldn’t be saying
What’s that? You’ve read something on a developer’s personal blog and have decided to quote it, sensationalise it then add your opinion to the bottom of it suggesting that this sort of stuff is a bit pre-emptive or fuelled by personal views and shouldn’t have its profile raised. Well maybe if you’d decided not to raise its profile and publicise it only so you can damn it you’d have a point. And, either way, your point should be in the comments section of the developers personal blog – that’s what they’re for. Except you’re abusing your status and exploiting your audience by doing what you did. If you then do some sort of round up of “people who should keep their mouths shut” based on things you yourself chose to publicise then you’re manipulative, hypocritical and insular. That’s before we even consider who the fuck you think you are to govern the freedom of speech of others.
Many instances of the above occurred in the sites I viewed in 2009. Certain sites exhibiting such behaviour practically on a daily basis.
Plenty of scope for improvement in the new year and beyond eh?
In what may turn out to be a recurring topic, I rant a little about what I regard as questionable behaviour in the often free-from-criticism world of mainstream media writing. These are a reflection of my views and my standards, yours may differ.
Are you a regular visitor to a frequently updated web site that publishes every single one of its articles with a clever or ironic header image?
You know the sort of thing I mean. The type of site that tries to sell its story content (or, more frequently, the opinion of the author) via a witty image that suggests that as much, if not more, time was spent on Google image search looking for the right semi-related image than there was spent on writing the original article in the first place.
What does it say about the belief in the quality of writing on the site or the treatment of its readership when such a site invests that sort of energy into leading the audience to form an opinion on something before they’ve even been informed of what that something is?
The double-whammy of an undoubtedly eye-catching headline (oh, I’ll cover that in another Churnalism rant, have no fear) and a sarcasticly presented image tend to lead easily impressionable readers to a certain view before they’re even aware what it is that they should be having a view on!
Are your words alone not sufficient to inform and captivate? If you cater and, more importantly, target the lowest common denominator of your readership then are you really doing yourselves or your audience a proper service?
Of course not. You’re there to churn out articles and to provoke a response in any way you can.
The litmus test: Is your article as readable and compelling without your clever/sarcastic/ironic imagery above it? If not then there’s a lot of scope for improvement in how your articles are written – and you’re not going to find the answers in Photoshop.