ECIjeE3This past Saturday marked an event that many in and around the events of GamerGate were both look­ing for­ward too or dread­ing, de­pend­ing on whom you asked. Region 3 Director for the SPJ (Society for Professional Journalists), Michael Koretzky, or­ga­nized an event called Airplay. For those who don’t know, Airplay was a pan­el dis­cus­sion be­tween devs, jour­nal­ists, and aca­d­e­mics that worked to de­fine what the gen­er­al beef is be­tween gamers and the en­thu­si­ast press they have called to task, as well as a way to ad­dress how the me­dia in­ter­acts with and por­trays on­line move­ments go­ing into the fu­ture.

The event near­ly went off with­out a hitch — mul­ti­ple bomb threats aside. In fact, there was a bomb threat deemed cred­i­ble enough by Miami-Dade PD that they end­ed up or­der­ing the build­ing that Airplay was be­ing held in to be evac­u­at­ed ap­prox. 2:30pm EST. Eerily rem­i­nis­cent of an ear­li­er event re­gard­ing a GamerGate meet-up in Washington, DC; it is un­de­ter­mined at this time where the threats came from in both the DC and Miami in­ci­dents.

Other folks, fin­er writ­ers than this man, went over the de­tails of the pan­els. If you have not, then I sug­gest you check out some of these ac­counts of events as well as watch­ing the pan­els them­selves (at­tached at the bot­tom).

A summary of the events

The morn­ing pan­el con­sist­ed of Ashe Schow from the Washington Examiner, Breitbart writer Allum Bokhari, and the very dap­per look­ing Mark Ceb as they dis­cussed some of the is­sues gamers had with the games press — and me­dia at large — with the oth­er side of the pan­el that in­clud­ed SPJ mem­ber and in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Lynn Walsh, Ren LaForme who is a jour­nal­ism in­struc­tor for the Poynter Institute, and neu­tral game de­vel­op­er Derek Smart.

This pan­el had a great back and forth, with some high­lights in­clud­ing try­ing to ex­plain GamerGate suc­cinct­ly to an old­er jour­nal­ist who was ig­no­rant of the events, Paolo Munoz’s im­pas­sioned com­men­tary on the cli­mate of fear that out­lets like Gawker in­still, and the gen­er­al con­sen­sus that, yes, game jour­nal­ists have been deal­ing in im­pro­pri­ety.

It was a pret­ty rous­ing dis­cus­sion, even with some hor­ren­dous au­dio is­sues at the start of it. On so­cial me­dia, you could al­most hear the col­lec­tive cries of joy as gamers got con­fir­ma­tion that they were not alone in think­ing that cer­tain out­lets act in un­eth­i­cal man­ners. The ques­tion comes, though, of what does one do now? We’ll touch on that af­ter the sum­ma­ry.

During this time, it is no­table that the #SPJAirplay tag start­ed to trend in the United States and the United Kingdom.  A tes­ta­ment to the in­cred­i­ble lev­el of ac­tiv­i­ty that those en­thu­si­as­tic about ethics were gen­er­at­ing.

After a lunch break, Airplay re­sumed with the same pan­el on the neu­tral side; Lynn Walsh, Ren LaForme, and Derek Smart. This time for the GamerGate side of the talks we had an­oth­er writer for Breitbart, Milo Yiannopoulos, AEI schol­ar and au­thor Christina Hoff Sommers, and Cathy Young, writer for Reason.

I’ll be po­lite in say­ing that the af­ter­noon pan­el was a bit of a train­wreck at times. The biggest is­sue I had with this part of Airplay is the ego fenc­ing be­tween Breitbart’s Yiannopoulos and Michael Koretzky, or­ga­niz­er of and mod­er­a­tor for Airplay. You can tell there is a bit of con­tention be­tween the two, and their spar­ring cer­tain­ly di­lut­ed the im­pact of fur­ther dis­cus­sion af­ter this point. There was still some great back and forth and good points were made by all sides, but it was be­com­ing quite clear that Koretzky had more than a “moderator’s” in­ter­est in this part of the event.

Personally, I re­al­ly wish he would have got­ten an­oth­er mod­er­a­tor for this pan­el and just pulled up a seat him­self at a ta­ble. It was ap­par­ent he want­ed to make his own points. Call me old fash­ion, but that doesn’t seem to be the role of a mod­er­a­tor. He did a de­cent job of try­ing to keep folks on track, but he want­ed to in­ject his view so much into the talks that I think it would have been bet­ter served for him to be up on the ac­tu­al pan­el.

Other watch­ers of Airplay did of­fer cri­tiques on how Koretzky was per­ceived to be cut­ting off dis­cus­sion of rel­e­vant de­tails to how GamerGate had re­port­ed on and treat­ed by the larg­er me­dia out­lets.

Chriss, @Chriss_m on Twitter, of­fered these com­ments on the SPJAirplay.com blog post cov­er­ing the event:

Lynn Walsh said words to the ef­fect of ‘I still don’t un­der­stand what Gamergate is about’.

Well, here’s the thing, Koretzky. She’d un­der­stand it even less if you had had your way. In those open­ing state­ment you seem to dis­like so much, our af­ter­noon pan­elists did an ex­cel­lent job of ex­plain­ing:

Why they were in­volved in Gamergate.

Who Gamergate has an is­sue with.

How it re­lates to jour­nal­is­tic ethics.

How and why the me­dia mis­rep­re­sent­ed the move­ment.

Following up on this, Ren LaForme, who end­ed the first pan­el by say­ing he was still deeply skep­ti­cal of Gamergate, would have had the op­por­tu­ni­ty to chal­lenge the pan­elists on any as­pect of the sit­u­a­tion he wished. And this would have pro­vid­ed a spring­board into how to avoid these per­ceived fail­ings in cov­er­ing on­line move­ments. You in­stead adopt­ed a hos­tile po­si­tion to­ward the pan­el.

The pan­el was sup­posed to be about how to cov­er on­line move­ments. You had an ab­solute­ly unique op­por­tu­ni­ty. Three very well known and promi­nent peo­ple with­in their fields, who have been as deep in an on­line move­ment as you can go, for around about a year, […] sat there and [were] will­ing to give you a de­tailed de fac­to case study of how it op­er­at­ed and how the me­dia mis­re­port­ed it. For some *biz­zare* rea­son, you de­cid­ed to hob­ble them by rul­ing out any­thing that had oc­curred be­fore AirPlay.”

Hands down best part of the af­ter­noon pan­el — to me — was when dis­cus­sion of the episode of Law and Order SVU that went into fur­ry cul­ture came up. A con­fused Sommers in­quir­ing what a fur­ry is launched plen­ty of jokes across the dig­i­tal land.

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Image via https://twitter.com/SabrinaLianne/status/633551917696860160

The af­ter­noon pan­el was cut off by the afore­men­tioned bomb threat that evac­u­at­ed the build­ing part way through. As the venue evac­u­at­ed onto the street, and folks were milling about and get­ting to talk on an in­di­vid­ual lev­el, some­thing kind of amaz­ing hap­pened. Despite the swel­ter­ing heat of the day — and in no small part to some kind souls who de­liv­ered wa­ter to those out on the street — they took over a near by aban­doned prop­er­ty and had an­oth­er im­promp­tu “pan­el” talk.

Whatever com­bi­na­tion of emo­tions from the bomb scare, and hav­ing the time to hu­man­ize those they had been talk­ing about but nev­er talked to, com­bined to make this a won­der­ful­ly in­ter­est­ing di­cus­sion. Members of the press from the au­di­ence got to talk face to face with gamers and oth­er jour­nal­ists who sup­port­ed GamerGate.

It bor­dered on kismet. People who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the con­sumer re­volt ex­pect­ed a bomb threat. But not be­cause of any pre-planned con­niv­ing, but due to threats and scares be­com­ing par for the course when on­line de­bates meet in the flesh.

The im­pas­sioned talks on the street in­spired some jour­nal­ists, with Jack Pagano stat­ing:

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Image Via https://twitter.com/oliverbcampbell/status/633695481760104448

So all in all, Airplay went about as I ex­pect­ed. The dis­cus­sion was live­ly and in­for­ma­tive and I feel that all sides present were able to take away some in­sight and ways to move for­ward in the now year-long protest against un­eth­i­cal me­dia.

But there are lin­ger­ing ques­tions, and im­por­tant thoughts to take for­ward from this. Where do we go from here?

Here are some of my take aways from this event. As a very fresh mem­ber of the SPJ and as some­one who sup­ports the con­sumer re­volt against an un­eth­i­cal press, I’m just a dude. Don’t take my word as gospel, but there im­por­tant things to take away from this I be­lieve.

Why did we ever trust the media?

I know it isn’t true for me, and it isn’t true for oth­ers in the con­sumer re­volt, but why did any­one in­her­ent­ly trust any press? Most jour­nal­ism is a prod­uct, and most of that is in­tend­ed to reach the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor with­in the au­di­ence. That is why you hear jour­nal­ists say “ex­plain it to me in a minute” be­cause that is what they have to do to their au­di­ence. It doesn’t mat­ter how nu­anced a writ­ers un­der­stand­ing of an event is if they are work­ing for a plat­form whose busi­ness op­er­a­tions are based on pump­ing out sound bite news hits meant to keep people’s eye­balls peeled on ad­ver­tise­ments.

This is not a con­dem­na­tion of all me­dia and press. This is a state­ment about jour­nal­ism as a prod­uct and how some out­lets treat it. It’s the sad, un­der dis­cussed, truth of most of the me­dia that peo­ple want so bad­ly to be le­git­imized. Of course there are news­rooms and in­di­vid­u­als who are won­der­ful, skilled, in­sight­ful, and able to to keep their ap­proach­es fair. But that is the ex­cep­tion, in my eyes, and not the rule.

But there is no le­git­imiz­ing some out­lets. If you look at the Gawkers and the Buzzfeeds of the world, it would lit­er­al­ly kill their busi­ness mod­el to act in a more stan­dards dri­ven way. Same with USA Today, Salon, Guardian, etc. These out­lets are push­ing a prod­uct, and it isn’t the news. It is the au­di­ence, dropped into de­mo­graph­i­cal­ly la­beled buck­ets and sold in bulk to ad­ver­tis­ers. Why would their pri­or­i­ty be the truth? The truth might be the use­ful byprod­uct of a giv­en ar­ti­cle, but the bot­tom line for these out­lets are get­ting eye­balls to ad­ver­tis­ers.

So where is the line that one ig­nore out­lets that have zero in­cen­tive to change? Where we start putting the en­er­gy of one’s out­rage to sup­port those who do op­er­ate in ways you find mesh with your ideas of stan­dards?

That is one I am wrestling with my­self — as much as I want to see Gawker go bank­rupt and nev­er ex­ist again. There is a rea­son I re­cuse my­self from writ­ing about Gawker and their me­dia ten­ta­cles. I don’t view them as a com­peti­tor; I view them as an en­e­my. An en­e­my to any­thing re­sem­bling qual­i­ty press.

It’s also one of the rea­sons I start­ed this site. I was shak­ing my fist at the bad ac­tors, and I de­cid­ed it was bet­ter to use that fist to ham­mer an al­ter­na­tive site in the mold of what I view as qual­i­ty (to the best of my abil­i­ty, at least). Be the change you want to see, and all that jazz.

What can the SPJ, or any ethical body, do at this point?

It was re­it­er­at­ed by Korestky and Lynn Walsh dur­ing the pan­els, but the SPJ ac­tu­al­ly doesn’t have teeth. They were not de­signed to. They ad­vo­cate and ed­u­cate on ethics and op­er­at­ing in stan­dards dri­ven ways in your news­room. They of­fer we­bi­na­rs and train­ing mod­ules to im­prove your tool box. They don’t en­force; they dis­cuss.

It’s a hard ques­tion to an­swer when asked, “what would one pre­fer?” A body that can ac­tu­al­ly reg­u­late and en­force man­dates? Or one that of­fers a more hands off ap­proach?

Maybe it is the lib­er­tar­i­an in me, but I don’t even think I want a body that en­forces stan­dards. That is very dan­ger­ous ter­ri­to­ry. Ethics are not dog­mat­ic, and will vary in rel­e­vance from news­room to news­room. An ed­i­fice built to ac­tu­al­ly man­date what is eth­i­cal and when doesn’t sound like a slip­pery slope; it sounds like a straight drop into the de­vel­op­ment of a Ministry of Truth. This could be used for abuse in so many ways.

And what are the “good” jour­nal­ists sup­posed to do? Go around wear­ing badges say­ing “I’m not a shit, you can trust me!” No. I don’t want a body that reg­u­lates. I can un­der­stand how oth­ers would, but it is a path I wouldn’t want to take.

It’s not to say these types of eth­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions built on ad­vo­ca­cy are use­less. I wouldn’t have joined the SPJ if that were the case. Discussion is para­mount when it comes to peo­ple com­ing across the ta­ble to gar­ner an un­der­stand­ing. This is ex­act­ly what Airplay es­tab­lished.

And wouldn’t you know it, jour­nal­ists out­side the gam­ing realm ac­tu­al­ly lis­tened to and ap­pre­ci­at­ed the pas­sion and mes­sage of what’s come from GamerGate. Ignorance is one of our worst en­e­mies, be­cause it has al­lowed the more bi­ased me­dia out­lets room to tell their tale. Now a more round­ed view is com­ing into fo­cus for jour­nal­ists.

This also touch­es on some­thing Lynn Walsh said in the morn­ing pan­el. Paraphrased, this busi­ness runs on rep­u­ta­tion. The more ridicu­lous, out of touch, and out­right slan­der­ous pieces that come from some games jour­nal­ists com­bined with the dis­cus­sion and aware­ness of how this is af­fect­ing real peo­ple is the lever for change. It is nev­er over night, but the dis­cus­sion is be­ing had. Can we change all of me­dia? No, but we can make stan­dards dri­ven me­dia out­lets some­thing that is de­sired in the mar­ket. And we can make that known to the press that will lis­ten.

So what can we do now?

Whoa, that is a re­al­ly open ques­tion…. that I asked my­self. There is ac­tu­al­ly a lot that in­di­vid­u­als and groups can do. I will touch on two of the most im­por­tant for me.

First are watch­dogs and cit­i­zens ac­tions groups. These have been lever­aged many times in cur­rent and his­tor­i­cal times. It’s noth­ing new, and you should not ever let some­one shame you or feel em­bar­rassed for want­i­ng one in an area of press that touch­es your life. It takes ac­tion to make change. It re­quires eyes watch­ing and peo­ple will­ing to stand up when they see malef­i­cence. It re­quires peo­ple will­ing to or­ga­nize so­lu­tions and aware­ness. We, quite lit­er­al­ly, need you.

A big an­swer to the ques­tion of “why do gamers care so much?” is that it is not only a realm that touch­es their life and the life of the cre­ators they love, but it is also an area of me­dia we could ac­tu­al­ly touch. Grassroots ac­tions had very real out­comes when it comes to GamerGate. Some of the gam­ing press up­dat­ed and added ethics poli­cies. Advertisers pulled from Gawker when emailed. In an age where peo­ple can feel in­creas­ing­ly pow­er­less next to big cor­po­ra­tions and an in­creas­ing­ly im­per­son­al in­ter­net, folks could fi­nal­ly reach out and touch some­thing for the bet­ter.

The sec­ond idea I am pas­sion­ate about, and think is in­creas­ing­ly be­com­ing more im­por­tant, is the cre­ation of al­ter­na­tives that op­er­ate how you feel is fair, and the sup­port of those out­lets. It is eas­i­er than ever to de­vel­op your own plat­form, tell your own part of the sto­ry, to al­ter the course of the pub­lic nar­ra­tive. GamerGate has caused a mar­ket shake up when it comes to the games press, and that is great in a free mar­ket. We need to keep on push­ing for those al­ter­na­tives we sup­port, and keep en­abling the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of un­der­rep­re­sent­ed view­points.

The continued case for no leaders

This is an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant and di­vi­sive point to many. Thus far, op­er­a­tions and ideas in GamerGate have been very much mer­it based. Do peo­ple like an idea? They do it then, and if they don’t like an idea it gets ig­nored (or pos­si­bly ridiculed). Did some­one say some­thing that touched peo­ple? Then they share it, and leave the rest at the bot­tom of the pile. It can be in­ef­fi­cient at times but it has been in­cred­i­bly use­ful for keep­ing a group that has such dif­fer­ing view­points on is­sues to­geth­er for a com­mon push.

And I don’t think that has to change. But we do need peo­ple will­ing to do the talk­ing and pre­sen­ta­tion about the de­tails of what the group finds mer­it in bring­ing to the ta­ble. This does not in­volve pick­ing “lead­ers” or even “rep­re­sen­ta­tives” of any kind of fac­tion or ide­ol­o­gy. This just in­volves peo­ple who talk to oth­er peo­ple about the is­sues at hand. They are only a “leader’ in­so­much that you per­son­al­ly make them one.

If you take Airplay as an ex­am­ple, there were six peo­ple who spoke for the side of the con­sumer re­volt. Only 5 out of the 6 do I re­al­ly sup­port as hold­ing my view­points and as be­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive. The one I do not sup­port does not take away from the dis­cus­sion, does not rep­re­sent me, and cer­tain­ly are not a leader. Even if oth­ers sup­port this per­son when I don’t.

So we have a bit of a branch­ing path left af­ter Airplay. If you turn to page 50, you can tell the or­ga­nized me­dia to for­ni­cate them­selves and con­tin­ue this con­sumer re­volt large­ly how it was. This was damned ef­fec­tive, for a time at least. I hap­pen to ques­tion how long that can keep up, but it’s not my place tell peo­ple they shouldn’t tell the me­dia to shove off.

In my thirty-three years on this Earth I have cer­tain­ly got­ten used to not car­ing what lies the me­dia tries to tell me. I’ve been a mis­fit to them for decades be­tween my mu­sic tastes and be­ing one of those “Satanic” Dungeons & Dragons play­ers. We have en­act­ed pos­i­tive change in a lead­er­less fash­ion, and who’s to say we can­not con­tin­ue like that?

This is not to con­fuse cults of per­son­al­i­ty as “lead­ers.” People will al­ways flock to charis­mat­ic peo­ple, and fol­low­er count on so­cial me­dia has noth­ing to do with how well some­one can com­mu­ni­cate an idea.

Though, if we turn to page 72 of our choose our own ad­ven­ture book, we start build­ing bridges with tra­di­tion­al me­dia and start work­ing on greater ad­vo­ca­cy of me­dia from a ground up ap­proach.

The games press, and en­ter­tain­ment me­dia in gen­er­al, has al­ways been a kind of “soft” form of jour­nal­ism in pro­fes­sion­al eyes. You saw it your­self when Anita Sarkeesian was on The Colbert Report. Colbert’s anal­o­gy of the games press be­ing as un­eth­i­cal as the movie press was very apt, but his punch line of “why care?” re­al­ly miss­es the point. One should care. We should care about all the me­dia we con­sume.

We have to de­mand the stan­dards, be­cause to most out­lets we are the prod­uct to serve to the ad­ver­tis­ers. We have to com­mu­ni­cate to the press and me­dia what we want. We have to make the truth prof­itable, as sad as it is to say.

And we have to make those points known, and con­tin­ue that for as long as we can. What’s the thing that all false nar­ra­tives have in com­mon? They keep get­ting re­peat­ed over and over un­til they take on a truth of their own in the court of pub­lic opin­ion. We need to keep re­peat­ing our points, un­til the truth can be­come the nar­ra­tive. But we are go­ing to need peo­ple will­ing to keep on re-iterating and com­mu­ni­cat­ing these points to the press and oth­er jour­nal­ists. These are not lead­ers, they are am­bas­sadors and trans­la­tors. They only have as much pow­er as you let them have.

In Parting

Those are just few of the more burn­ing points and thoughts in my head about this whole af­fair. All in all, Airplay was a net win to me. If the goal was to raise aware­ness, then I have to give it at least 3 out of 4 stars. The post-bomb threat talk was es­pe­cial­ly poignant and I feel is the high­light of the event.

What are your thoughts on what Airplay means for GamerGate, as the con­sumer re­volt reach­es it’s one year an­niver­sary?

Have any al­ter­nate paths in our choose your own ad­ven­ture book?

Let us know down be­low in the com­ments!

 

 

(Updated 8/20 to cor­rect the spelling of Lynn Walsh’s name.)

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Josh Bray
Josh has worked in IT for over 15 years. Graduated Broadcasting school in 2012 with a fo­cus on A/V pro­duc­tion. Amateur pho­tog­ra­ph­er with a pas­sion to make things work… by any means nec­es­sary. Editor-in-Chief and do-er of tech things at SuperNerdLand