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SPJ considers games journalism awards

After a year of unprecedented rebellion against media elites by gamers, the Society of Professional Journalists has “tentatively agreed” to host gaming journalism awards, in an apparent attempt to improve ethical standards in the games press.

Board member Michael Koretzky, who named the SPJ’s “regional director of the year” earlier this week,  confirmed the decision. He told followers on social media that the awards could be a “done deal” by next month. Koretzky has taken a keen interest in games journalism over the past year, and recently organised a widely-covered SPJ event to discuss the GamerGate controversy.

Gaming journalism has endured over a year of relentless criticism from gamers, who have accused leading games publications of supporting censorship, conflicts of interest and contributing to politically-motivated moral panics. Known as the GamerGate movement, they have been unfairly and inaccurately portrayed across the media as misogynists and “online harassers.”

Particularly on the progressive left, words like “sexism,” “racism,” “misogyny” and other assorted -phobias and -isms have become a common tool to attack and demonize critics. All of these words and more were used against gamers – but for over a year, they refused to back down. Left-wing outlets in particular came under pressure to improve their standards, with Gawker Media losing a “seven figure sum” in ad revenue losses attributed to GamerGate. Their efforts were also heard by neutral watchdogs, such as the CBC ombudsman in Canada, and the Dutch media council in Europe.

If the SPJ go through with their plan to create awards for games journalism, it would be another example of GamerGate setting the agenda on media ethics. Koretzky acknowledges that his interest in games journalism was piqued when GamerGate supporters flooded an SPJ-created hashtag in April to raise awareness of the problem. “It’s hard enough to get journalists interested in the topic,” says Koretzky. “Any time anyone else utters the term “journalism ethics,” that should be like a bell to Pavlov’s dog.”

Koretzky later hosted a debate on ethical issues raised by GamerGate during an SPJ conference in Miami. Although a series of bomb threats from anonymous opponents of the discussion brought the proceedings to an abrupt halt, Koretzky has apparently succeeded in putting ethics in games journalism on the SPJ’s agenda.

It is admittedly difficult to determine who could actually win a games journalism award. If there’s one for “most hand-wringing editorial,” Polygon would certainly be in the running. Nevertheless, such an award would create an incentive, however small, for higher standards in games journalism. Gamers win again.

Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter. 

Disclosure: I was part of the committee that advised Michael Koretzky as he organised the SPJ’s GamerGate event in Miami, and I attended as a panelist. 

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