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RIP Blogs (I wish)

posted on December 2nd, 2007 by christian

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.

11 Comments

  1. Jonah Falcon said on December 2, 2007:

    “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. ”

    Never said anything of the kind. 1UP and EGM and Joystiq are not blogs – they’re news sites. I have no thoughts on blogs, since, as you say, they’re just online diaries, really. I don’t recall attacking Dan Hsu, though he did respond in the comment section.

    I don’t know if there’s any ramifications if it is true, since review whoring has never been something Gamespot has ever been accused of. If anything, it’s been accused of being too strict in its reviews.

  2. jay said on December 2, 2007:

    The Gerstmann issue seems pretty clear to me. Of course if this were a news site I wouldn’t report it as fact, but enough GS employees have come forward with blog posts that are fearful and concerning. For example, http://www.gamespot.com/users/Adam_B/show_blog_entry.php?topic_id=m-100-25234203#post_comment
    is a blog post of a GS employee who mentions he has had other posts removed, presumably by people higher up the food chain. Even if you won’t buy that his post was removed because it has anything to do with the ordeal, his tone makes it very clear what he thinks is going on. This and other posts combined with no one from GS or Gerstmann’s personal friends saying “It didn’t go down like that,” seem to be pretty damning. CNETs response is entirely pointless because nothing they say can be taken at face value. This isn’t CNET specific issue, any company who has something to lose will lie.

    Other issues: Dan Hsu is the editor of EGM, who Johan comments on. He doesn’t personally take on Hsu, though. Also, Joystiq is a blog. This can be found at the bottom of their site:
    “Other Weblogs Inc. Network blogs you might be interested in:” followed by a list of blogs they run. Go to any of those and scroll back down and you’ll see Joystiq is listed.

    The more important issue at hand is how much responsibility, if any, do blogs have to deliver serious content? A huge site like Destructoid’s first instinct was to mock the situation. I don’t think this should be held against Dtoid but it’s concerning that the biggest sites for gaming are an equal mix of blogs and “real” news sources.

    Also, Christian, you do realize that vl is probably a blog, right?

  3. Jonah Falcon said on December 2, 2007:

    I’ve never thought of Joystiq as a blog, really. They call themselves a blog, but really, they’re a news site with comments. Joystiq is a news webring, really – and hard to classify because they have no print magazine.

  4. Jonah Falcon said on December 2, 2007:

    “Of course if this were a news site I wouldn’t report it as fact, but enough GS employees have come forward with blog posts that are fearful and concerning.”

    Oh, and consider the source. Loyal friends.

  5. jay said on December 2, 2007:

    Why would these loyal friends want to burn down their own homes? Destroying their own company by fanning the flames seems like a terrible idea.

    Joystiq is one of the news sites that hides behind their blog flag. Anything inaccurate has nothing to do with their integrity because after all they are only a blog.

    And I know Christian kind of compelled you to come here, but thanks for the comments.

  6. tyson said on December 2, 2007:

    Aside from the Gamespot fiasco, the big sticking point to these comments and Christian’s article is that no one has properly figured out how to classify blogs and what sites constitute proper news and what sites are just some guy talking into space and wondering if anyone is listening.

    This obliqueness can also be witnessed in the US legal system. If a blogger falls under the title of a journalist by traditional standards, then he has a few rights that regular people do not and the same is true with his blog. However, I don’t think some guy just talking about video game news should be considered proper journalism.

    At some point, a test case will get run through the court system so we can once and for all have a clear definition of what is and isn’t a blog. Bloggers have gotten way too much power as of late and have no guidelines as to what can and can’t be done. This needs to change.

  7. Jonah Falcon said on December 2, 2007:

    To me, a blogger stops being a blogger when he or she has a relationship with the companies they’re covering.

    For example, Joystiq’s covered E3, gets sent press releases, has a public relations firm, is incorporated and a part of Weblogs. It features major advertising, gets corporate perks, and holds contests for high priced items.

    It’s not a personal blog – it’s a news webring.

  8. jay said on December 3, 2007:

    Does that mean we stopped being a blog when Moonpod sent us a free copy of Mr Robot? I honestly don’t know the answer, but if an unknown site like this can get cozy with (at least independent) PR people, then there may be about 14 actual blogs on the net.

  9. Jonah Falcon said on December 3, 2007:

    You have a PR firm?

  10. jay said on December 3, 2007:

    Not unless you consider me submitting articles to Digg to be a PR firm. I am pointing out that defining where a blog stops is not black and white and even small sites have interaction with publishers.

  11. Richard Mitchell said on December 3, 2007:

    “But will he actually go ahead and do an investigative report on Gamespot and Gerstman? Nope. Will anyone else do it? Probably not.”

    For what it’s worth, Joystiq is usually pretty good on following up on reports. For instance, Joystiq contacted Gerstmann (and CNET for that matter) directly for comment:

    http://www.joystiq.com/2007/12/03/exclusive-gertsmann-speaks-about-kandl-review-future/

    Granted, Joystiq pays my check, so maybe I have a soft spot for them :)

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