My one and only take on the Gerstman Gate fiasco lies here. Yesterday I was talking with Videolamer Ringleader Jay about games journalism, and how blogs seem to have far, far too much power. A site like Destructoid makes a cheap parody, and this is regarded as a major burn while they call it a day. The fact that we are mentioning burns in a so called area of journalism is troubling, but I digress. Blogs often give the appearance that they are reporting rumors and anonymous sources as facts, and while they do sometimes place disclaimers, it is curious that most people don’t focus on them. Either we as a nation cannot read, or the disclaimers are stealthily placed into the first rumormongering articles, so that later editions can bask in the sensationalism.
If you want to see the best example of the damage blogs can do, take a look at this post by a certain Jonah Falcon. Jonah bemoans all the above mentioned things, and wishes that more websites would either do some sincere investigating, or at least wait until more facts are present before reporting on the Gerstman scenario. He also takes stabs at several industry names that he doesn’t like. Overall, I agree with much of what Jonah writes, including his stabs at Ziff Davis employees. However he himself gets a few things wrong, and even more interesting are the number of people that call him out for making a cry for journalistic integrity without himself practicing journalistic integrity. His defense is in his post – it is only a blog, so he can say whatever he wants.
Jonah’s post shows the two biggest problems with blogs. The first is the readers who give them too much power. I am the type of person who wishes that the Internet would be used for more serious and thought provoking discussion, rather than being a three ring circus where nothing counts. However, I do believe in the blog’s original purpose of personal thoughts and anecdotes (rants if you will) without the worry of consequence. Why then have we allowed them to become a source of news for the readers, and income for the writers? If we enjoy the blog format, that is one thing. It is a good way to digest a lot of information quickly. But if that is the case, we need to separate the format from the content that it contains. All the hyperbole and personal biases that blogs often contain would have to be eliminated. For now, that is not going to happen, and so blogs should be nothing more than places to gain a few links to actual news articles, and to read the commentary and nod your head. Instead we look at them as legitimate sources and op-ed pieces, leading to more bellyaching and criticism about absolutely nothing.
The second problem is with the bloggers themselves. It is clear that people take their words too seriously, and there isn’t that much a blogger can do about it. What we can do about it is stop being so lazy. Jonah Falcon wants to call us out for not being real journalists, and then hide behind his blogging shield to proclaim that he doesn’t have to do any better when writing in his blog. But will he actually go ahead and do an investigative report on Gamespot and Gerstman? Nope. Will anyone else do it? Probably not. We all want to tell each other how to do things the right way, but we won’t actually do it ourselves. We will say things like “I can’t” or “I am simply not that interested in the news”, which really just means they we only interested in it to the extent that it earns us ticks on our site’s hit counter. Blogs would not be so bad if people complimented them with real news pieces and journalistic endeavors, but no one has the guts to go ahead and do this. Its like the episode of South Park when Stan is trying recruit a dance team member from a group of Goths. We need to get over ourselves and make the difference, rather than adding to the blog cesspool with more backlash and hyperbole.
The Gamespot fiasco should be something we all take seriously, as it could have huge ramifications if it proves true. Instead we are all too busy running in circles on trikes and firing Nerf balls at each other.
Which is exactly why the situation will lead to absolutely no change in the way games journalism handles itself.
Edit: This post originally claimed that Jonah Falcon’s blog post mentioned Dan Hsu, which is in fact not the case. The author has made the according change and regrets and apologizes for the error.