The Society of Professional Journalists today launched the Kunkel Awards, a new category to “recognise excellence in games journalism.”
Named after pioneering games journalist Bill Kunkel, members of the public are invited to nominate their most admired games journalists for recognition over the next four months. Described by the SPJ as a “People’s Choice hybrid,” the public will nominate examples of excellence in games journalism, while SPJ-appointed judges will choose the winners.
There will be five separate Kunkel Awards, including excellence in news reporting, excellence in feature writing, excellence in news video or streaming, excellence in feature video or streaming, and excellence in photography or illustration.
Public nominations for all five awards are now open, and the SPJ will continue to take nominations until 14 February. The rules of nomination, as explained on the SPJ’s website, are as follows:
— Entries must have been published or posted in the 2015 calendar year.
— Entries can be from anywhere. We don’t care if they’re from a national website or a personal blog. They just have to be ethical and excellent.
— You don’t need permission from the author or the media outlet. If they win and get mad about it, we’ll deal with them.
— All entries must be in English or have translation available. Sorry for being ethnocentric.
The SPJ allows people to cast anonymous nominations, although the announcement post also stresses that the number of nominations will not make a difference to the overall result. “We won’t tell the judges how often an entry was nominated. So no need to stuff the ballot box.”
The director of the awards is Michael Koretzky, the SPJ regional director who hosted SPJ Airplay, a tumultuous panel discussion on GamerGate and ethics in games journalism in August (disclosure: I was one of the panellists).
Although the meeting had to be evacuated after anonymous online bomb threats, the event marked the beginning of the SPJ’s interest in games journalism. It was also a mark of legitimacy for supporters of the GamerGate movement, who had been raising the alarm about ethics in video games journalism for close to a year.
Since the August event, Koretzky has championed the idea of games journalism awards. He secured an agreement from the rest of the SPJ in September.
Yesterday, SPJ tentatively agreed to host gaming journalism awards. This weekend, I'll write a proposal. Next month, might be a done deal.
— koretzky (@koretzky) September 22, 2015
Writing on his blog, Koretzky explained why he thinks the awards are important. “155 million Americans ‘regularly’ play video games. Only 126 million voted in the 2012 presidential election. The U.S. video game industry raked in more than $22 billion last year. That’s more than the NFL ($11 billion) and Major League Baseball ($9 billion) combined.”
The awards have not been made permanent by the SPJ, and will only be renewed for a second year if this year’s awards go well. As Koretzky explains, “If the Kunkels recognize excellent and ethical reporting without too much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, I suppose it’ll survive another year.”
Speaking to Breitbart Tech, Koretzky credited SPJ Airplay and pressure from GamerGate supporters during the SPJ’s annual “Ethics Week” as a catalyst for the awards.
“The Kunkel Awards wouldn’t have happened without AirPlay, which wouldn’t have happened without SPJ’s Ethics Week hashtag getting bombed by trolls,” said Koretzky. “Out of something bad, good things have emerged. I was eager for these awards so we could encourage good journalism, instead of always bitching about bad journalism.”
“Hopefully, gaming journalists will realize, “Hey, if I do an excellent and ethical story, I can win a major award, put it on my resume, and get a raise someday.”