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A Magical Putter and the Year in Media Ethics

Screenshot of http://grantland.com/features/a-mysterious-physicist-golf-club-dr-v/ taken 1/4/15

I knew 2014 would be a notable year in media ethics at about the two-week mark. I remember it vividly. In mid-January, the sports website Grantland ran a stunning piece called “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” — a intriguing narrative about a golf club inventor who was transgender. The story concluded with her suicide. I recall reading it the day it was posted and saying to my husband, “Something doesn’t feel right about this.”

Two days later, he shared back with me a social media firestorm engulfing Grantland. Something indeed was not right, and what we saw in that opening ethics salvo of the year encapsulates many issues we should learn from heading into 2015.

Despite so many examples of important stories well reported and compellingly told, this year was one of media missteps. Lists abound, including Columbia Journalism’s Review’s summary of the worst journalism of 2014, Poynter’s corrections roundup and the top 10 from iMedia Ethics. But more important to me than individual incidences of ethics concerns are the connective tissue between them. Dr. V’s story was an anatomy and physiology lesson for what was to come.

Trapped in our own perspectives

To be clear, Grantland got nothing factually wrong in its coverage of Dr. V. The story is accurate. It went wrong with context. This woman’s story was not of a putter alone or even of her interactions with reporter Caleb Hannan. It was a delicate and nuanced story of a person who — as transgender — faced enormous struggles and questions. By failing to consult with even one person with experience or expertise on trans issues, Grantland went wrong on issues as small as gendered pronouns and as large as outing Dr. V. They wouldn’t have had to look far. The site is owned by ESPN, home to baseball writer Christina Kahrl, whose depth of understanding could have averted the whole mess.

We had so many perspective problems in 2014. The New York Times stumbled in trying to turn a stereotyped phrase and referring to Shonda Rhimes as an “angry black woman.” Coverage of the Ferguson protests lagged until a pair of reporters were arrested and got their own first-person view. And a Fox News anchor reacted to groundbreaking news that a female fighter pilot led the United Arab Emirates attacks on ISIL by referring to her as “boobs on the ground.”

This lack of perspective beyond our own is but one reason it’s a good idea to diversify both the people producing journalism and the avenues for citizens to participate in it. Every ethical discussion must include consideration of all those who would be affected by a story and whenever possible, we should seek and value their input.

Chasing a big narrative

The Dr. V story also shared fraught ethical tissue with likely the most regrettable media performance of 2014: The Rolling Stone story, “A Rape on Campus.” The bone-chilling tale of a gang rape at the University of Virginia had many elements familiar to those of us who know well the problems of sexual assault on campus. But it also struck some off-key chords, leading other media outlets — most notably the Washington Post — to question the story and find holes in the details.

Despite widespread references that the story has been retracted, the victim stands by her account and an independent review is under way at the Columbia University journalism school. With significant questions still in play, the jury is out on whether UVA fell victim to a “massive failure of journalistic ethics,” as asserted by the head of the university’s board of visitors.

But what is clear to me is that the magazine stumbled badly from the very outset of reporting. The writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, has spoken of casting about extensively for the right case on the right campus. She was hunting a particularly grave and stunning narrative. But that’s not what campus rape is about. It’s not case. It’s all the cases. In outing Dr. V as trans, Grantland missed the shared experience of trans people. In highlighting one horror in graphic detail, Rolling Stone missed the commonness of campus rape. They’ve been almost entirely overlooked in this debacle, but Atlantic’s piece on fraternity culture and the New York Times’ look at a campus sexual assault were ethical wins this year.

The Wall Street Journal discusses the Rolling Stone rape story.

Guessing at what isn’t known

Grantland raised a lot of questions with no answers in its putter piece. Other media this year erred in guessing when they didn’t know. The worst example — by far — came with the domestic abuse case involving Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice. Before TMZ published video clearly showing Rice brutally punching his then-girlfriend in an elevator, all the public had to go on was video of the following scene outside the elevator. When Rice was suspended for two games as a result, it led to lots of uninformed speculation — as if to say, “We don’t know what she did in that elevator.”

ESPN suspended panelist Stephen A. Smith for implying that women ought not provoke abuse, just one of multiple examples of victim-blaming. And ESPN also suspended Bill Simmons — Grantland’s founder and editor — after he essentially dared them to when accusing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of knowing more than he disclosed in the Rice case.

Covering suicide

The most jarring element of “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” comes at its close, when readers learn the subject died by suicide. This passage feels tacked on and badly handled — fitting, as it kicked off what I will remember as a horrible year for one of journalism’s most difficult subjects. When Robin Williams died by suicide in August, I knew plenty of media outlets would go wrong. They would say he “committed” suicide, when experts repeatedly guide toward the phrasing, “died by suicide.” They would glamorize Williams and his death, possibly boosting the contagion effect. And they would express shock and surprise, despite Williams’ many years battling depression and substance abuse, two key predictors of suicide.

But I had no idea we would go this wrong:

  • Radar Online ran a photo of Williams at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting, in clear violation of his privacy and contravention of the group’s parameters.
  • A CBS affiliate covered his attendance at AA meetings, courtesy of one of its own photographers who also attended.
  • Fox News’ Shepard Smith speculated about Williams being a “coward.”
  • ABC streamed live aerial shots from above Williams’ home after he was found dead.
  • And Henry Rollins betrayed his own experience with depression in a craven “F*** Suicide” post.

Thankfully, we are far ahead of where we were just a decade ago in understanding suicide and advocating for responsible coverage. Useful guidelines abound and should be routinely discussed in newsrooms. Advocates are also quick to root out problems and demand improvements. Apologies followed every one of the examples above. Let’s hope we learn from them.

Robin Williams' death dominated news cycles. (Photo courtesy of  Eggwork and used here under Creative Commons.)

Robin Williams’ death dominated news cycles. (Photo courtesy of Eggwork and used here under Creative Commons.)

Getting it right when wrong

This brings me to the one place Grantland went right. When social media delivered a lashing to their door, the staff did not bolt the lock. Instead, they engaged in serious and public self-reflection. Simmons’ letter detailing how they got where they were and why the story was a problem is a masterstroke of ethical reasoning. It was late. But it was certainly not too little. The site also gave Christina Kahrl ample amplification for her searing critique.

Not everyone could claim the same corrective high ground. New York magazine was duped by a teenager into thinking he had made millions picking stocks. They’ve run a correction, but their online headline still reads as though the story is true. Conservative news site Breitbart also kept up a headline claiming Loretta Lynch, nominee for attorney general, had defended the Clintons during Whitewater. They had the wrong Loretta Lynch and appended a correction at the bottom of the page but left the original flawed headline live for weeks.

Yet the grand prize for doing worse in a correction than you did in a story has to go to Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana.

When outlets began focusing on flaws in its rape story, Rolling Stone could have done what it now has: investigate how things went astray and take responsibility. Instead, Dana took the initial errant step of blaming the victim, using her pseudonym,  “Jackie.”

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”

I suspect that one sentence did more to set back reporting on sensitive issues than any other development in 2014. Remember, Jackie has not retracted her statements. And she didn’t write or edit the story. But even though the magazine has now reworked its statement, that original is the dominant impression for many.

Ethics and public communicators

One final element of Grantland’s year-opening ethics controversy sticks with me. Simmons’ letter details his discomfort with the tenor of many responses, especially those directed at the writer.

(W)as that worth tormenting him on Twitter, sending him death threats, posting his personal information online and even urging him to kill himself like Dr. V did? Unbelievably, for some people, the answer was ‘yes.’ I found that behavior to be sobering at best and unconscionable at worst. You can’t excoriate a writer for being insensitive while also being willfully insensitive to an increasingly dangerous situation.

In that, I see an inescapable link to this year’s most troubling ethics case: GamerGate. While many claimed this movement was about calling out ethical lapses in videogame journalism, I was astounded and appalled by the misogynistic and threatening nature of some posts. People — particularly women — were attacked for speaking out, often getting “doxxed” (slang for having your personal information documented or published online).

I, like many, have had and still have hope that the participatory nature of digital media will help more people engage with news coverage, counter bias and correct errors. But GamerGate is challenging those hopes of mine. Much of the conversation — if I can even call it that — has been a toxic sludge of rumor, invective and gender bias. The irony comes from people who claim to be challenging the ethics of game journalists through patently unethical behavior.

It seems that to some, journalists must have ethics but other public communicators are free from responsibility. Wrong. We’re smack in an age when access to the means to publish — whether on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere — amps up the responsibility we all have. Anyone with an Internet connection needs to consider the responsible use of our freedom to publish. Truth, bias, independence and minimizing harm are no longer questions merely for journalists. And every petulant gamer who will engage in doxxing, rape threats or other abuses needs to wake up, smell those obligations and stop polluting the public sphere.

This pollution extends beyond GamerGate, of course. Take a look at the mayhem of Charles C. Johnson if you’re interested in another case study. We began 2014 with all sorts of questions about Grantland’s responsibility. The interesting questions for the coming year will be how far such responsibilities extend beyond news organizations and how we can hold other public communicators accountable.

Kathleen Bartzen Culver (@kbculver) is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, teaching and researching at the intersection of ethics and digital media practices. Culver also serves as associate director of the Center for Journalism Ethics and education curator for PBS MediaShift.

21 replies

  1. I find it a little troubling that someone that’s “teaching and researching at the intersection of ethics and digital media practices” would so readily condemn a consumer revolt involving thousands (including many minorities from #NotYourShield) on account of the actions of a few notable cases of harassment towards some ostensibly connected to GamerGate. Also linking to an article at Gawker which is implicating in corruption and cronyism readily documented at a (admitably biased) site called gamergate.me; see http://wiki.gamergate.me/index.php?title=Gawker for links to primary sources.

    It seems clear that Culver has been fooled to believe the hard-pressed (and difficult to believe) narrative pushed by agenda-driven ‘press’ sites that haven’t done any journalistic research into the details of the controversy beyond corroborating stories made by people invested and involved in the corruption. It’s a little ironic that the UVA story wouldn’t cause one to question the seeming victim-complex of some detractors of GamerGate, without even clear verification on their stories. We’ve seen some publish threats and the like instead of doing what you’re supposed to; report them and try not to incite new ones (or as the Internet calls it, feeding the trolls). In fact, there’s evidence of trolls trying to flare up tensions on both ‘sides’ (it’s hard to call such a diverse group as GamerGate a particular side).

    GamerGate has already lead to the FTC “updating their FAQ for consumers to better identify media practices and endorsements that appear in nature to be anti-consumer. A consumer’s continued correspondence with an FTC official has revealed that YouTube endorsements and standard media endorsements won’t just be par the course for the upcoming update to the FTC’s FAQ, they will also specifically target clandestine endorsements through affiliate links as well.” As well as bring changes to ethics policies at Kotaku after what has been revealed there. Furthermore it’s a consumer revolt responsible for thousands of dollars given to charity, which includes The Fine Young Capitalists (most notably) which were under attack at some point by some people harboring some… troubling ideologues.

    More than that the fervor at which pro-GamerGate people have had to endure cruel harassment with people (confirmed) getting “swatted”, sent syringes to, lost jobs (blacklisted), and generally been on the recieving end of much hate; this with almost no media coverage compared to detractors of GamerGate, as if nobody cared, has been disheartening. GamerGate tries to self-police and definitely does NOT condone any harassment and abuse (who does?), however it’s hard when people are anonymous (naive people would have you think ending anonymity is a solution to this problem, as if anonymity alone spawns hatred).

    Clearly, GamerGate has gotten a lot of bad press, but the evidence (and there are lots) speaks volumes for itself. Gamers are, besides exposing a colluding press through GamesJournoPro and the like, standing up to another form of puritans which are reminiscient of right-wing moral police who wanted to censor fiction in the past. Only this time they are left-wing and much more alluring, trying instead to convince us that games should send us less “problematic” messages. So-called academics (who could face IRS charges) critique the objectification of women in games by using master-suppression-technique like rhetoric, cherry-picked examples, and outright lying. All the while ignoring the violence done to billions of not-real men and indeed objectification of men in the same sense; as soon as you try out the logic, it all falls apart.

    I could go on, but instead I’ll provide some good sources which can help shed light on this confusing issue (mostly confusing due to the strange narrative the colluding press has been trying to sell):

    Lastly, I’ll leave another article by spiked-online, where they stake their reputation on the line by throwing GamerGate on a list over the top people of 2014, which will surely leave some people who believe them to be an organized hate movement (or something) with some cognitive dissonance:

    “Who’d have thought that videogamers, snootily and wrongly written off by modern culture as bedroom-bound blokes with hygiene problems, would be manning the barricades in the fight for freedom of thought? That’s what happened this year. In the #Gamergate controversy, which started life as a silly spat over videogame journalism but speedily morphed into a Culture War by media feminists against allegedly sexist videogames, gamers everywhere stopped taking part in pretend wars on their TV screens and instead engaged in a real, moral war for their right to play what they want. In a year in which all sorts, from Sony to Oxford University, caved in to demands to STFU and stop saying or showing offensive stuff, gamers said: ‘No.’ They put down a flag, and anyone who believes in the freedom to think, to imagine, to pretend, should rally behind it — even if you’ve never heard of, far less played, GTA or World of Warcraft.”

    Take care and remember; draw conclusions based on the facts, not the other way around.

    1. “It seems clear that Culver has been fooled to believe the hard-pressed (and difficult to believe) narrative pushed by agenda-driven ‘press’ sites …”

      Ah, the months-old Gamergate excuse for any figure of authority condemning their ‘movement’, despite how absurdly unlikely it is that a journalist and researcher won’t have looked at their argument as made by Gamergate itself and come away, like the rest of us, completely unconvinced (not to mention shocked by how appallingly critically illiterate, self-deluding and socially unaware most Gaters are).

      Extra bingo points for incorrect use of ‘cognitive dissonance’ – one of various Gamergate catchphrases that its adherents deploy because it sounds science-y.

    2. So your two sources on how GamerGate is being trashed come from a site known for viewing all laws concerning speech as destructive (including libel, hate speech, and incitement) and the other which puts Nixon and Clarence Thomas on a platform as some of their Heroes of Freedom (never mind Nixon trying cheat an election, or Thomas working tirelessly to make sure Christianity is the religion of the US, regardless of what the 1st Amendment has to say on the matter).

      I recognize GG views pretty much any site that gives them positive coverage as great, but you should probably do some research into those sites and the criticisms raised about them both in the past and present before trying to prevent them as valid sources, Peter. If Wikipedia isn’t going to take them because they are heavily biased or known for presenting information in a way that is illegal… then it’s probably not going to fly in a serious discussion on journalism either.

      1. Thanks for a constructive response.

        Yes, I’m aware of some of the issues with the sites linked. I could also link KnowYourMeme’s article on GamerGate, and you could raise legitimate points about that site’s ethos as well. However, my point is that there are primary sources (evidence) available out there which very much contradict the view of the supposed “hate movement” GamerGate. It looks like confirmation bias when I only link to sites giving GamerGate positive press, but whenever you read articles outright condemning GamerGate you can’t help but notice the categorical dismissal of any and all claims made by the movement and the one-sided coverage about harassment from one ‘side’, not to mention the lack of proof and verification. Journalists have simply not done their job and bought the line “but it’s actually about misogyny and sexism”, basically vilifying an entire consumer revolt.

        Wikipedia, as I’m sure you know, is rarely recommended as a source and for good reason. One of it’s tenets involve the exclusion of original research, relying only on what reliable sources are available (despite their questionable reliability when concerning something like GamerGate). The simplistic and fantastical condemnation of a consumer revolt as misogynistic hinges on the intangible guilt-by-association argument that some sociopaths ostensibly related to GamerGate (widely condemned by GamerGate) engaging in harassment and disgusting behaviour. I mean look at the vitriol people supporting GamerGate has gotten http://blogjob.com/oneangrygamer/2015/01/documented-harassment-women-minorities-receive-for-supporting-gamergate/

        Furthermore it’s not hard to see through the tactics employed by those who condemn GamerGate:
        * Scaring people by saying they are dangerous, threatening and a hate group, and exaggerate or fabricate some threats to amplify scare.
        * Shame neutral parties and authorities by accusing them of endorsing the enemy (GamerGate) by allowing it to exist.
        * Silence the enemy by bullying authorities into censoring or segregating discourse under the pretext of creating a “safe space”.

        To use the same logic, if you argue against GamerGate you are supporting a hate movement against it and should be ashamed (to be clear I don’t actually think this).

        1. “Journalists have simply not done their job and bought the line “but it’s actually about misogyny and sexism”, basically vilifying an entire consumer revolt.”

          Actually journalists have done their job. The issue for GG is the job of a journaists is not to act as a PR machine for GG.

          You can appeal to the idea that a movement should not be defined by the actions of some of its dangerous members, but all you are actually saying is that you want to define your movement by the claims and actions of THESE members rather than by the claims and actions of THESE members.

          And the first question any journalist listening to that would have is – Who are you to say what GG is or isn’t about, and why do you want it defined that way?

          It is not lost on journalists that most members of GG want the movement to be defined by the least objectionable actions of its members, ie they want it defined by what they believe is the most reasonable and PR friendly claims of the group. And journalists aren’t stupid, they know this is just public relations and spin. They know that any group will want to present itself in the best possible way to the public. The proof in the sincerity of any movement like this is not what they claim to be about, but what they do to stop the worst elements of the group. Political parties expel corrupt members, they don’t just say “Well the actions of Mr Moneybags doesn’t define the party”. Because it DOES define the party if the party does not take steps to stop it defining the party.

          From the start GG has refused to actually set out a leadership or a structured set of goals that would lend structure to what the movement was supposed to be about. They have consistently failed to attempt to define what is legitimate goals of the movement and what isn’t. That was considered a plus by GG at the start. Boasts were made about how GG wasn’t going to police membership, it was going to allow anyone to express their views. It has become increasingly problematic as the members have realized that without any structure there is nothing actually defining what the legitimate movement is. And journalists will of course report on the most news worthy actions of the group, such as the harassment and threats, because those are far more news worthy and important than a letter writing campaign.

          This is journalists doing their jobs, it is part of reporting. If Hamas blow up a town square you don’t also give equal weight to the new plumbing project they started last week.

          “Scaring people by saying they are dangerous, threatening and a hate group, and exaggerate or fabricate some threats to amplify scare.”

          They are saying these things because GG contains a lot of dangerous people who make real threats to groups and people that they hate. Again your issue should not be why do the press keep reporting these people (because it is news), but rather what has GG done to expel and distance itself from these people, making clear that the movement isn’t about them.

          And again the problem is so far GG has done practically nothing to do this. There have been half hearted “harassment reporting” but any journalists who looks into this finds nothing happens to the person reported (since there is no official system of membership) and the people you are supposed to report this to are themselves unofficial they drop in and out, and themselves have been accused of less that saviour things. Again GG fall back to the proud boast GG is leadership-less and will not dictate who can and cannot be a member and what they can and cannot do. Ok, but you have to take the consequences of that.

          If the movement won’t do anything about these people then GG will be defined by them because what they are threatening to do is far more serious than the other claims GG make about wanting to clean up games journalism.

          The hard lesson members of GG have learned is that if you have a completely fluid movement then you don’t get to dictate what aspects of the group people look at when examining it.

          Here is the hard reality –

          If you claim you are just about letter writing campaigns but members are also making death threats against people AND you refuse to put in place any structure to expel these people from the movment then you DON’T get to say that the press should only get to look at the letter writing campaign and ignore the people making death threats.

          If no one is deciding official membership the death threat guys are as valid members of the group as anyone else and their actions define the movement as much as the people who joined just to write letters to advertisers.

          If you have no official membership system then you DON’T get to say that some members are really representing GG and others aren’t.

          And more importantly a REFUSAL to do this, a refusal to attempt to put in place any system to expel these people from your organisation will be taken as approval of their existence in the movement. You can say that you will not police membership, but that is just another way of saying you are happy for these people to be part of your group and have their actions associated with your group. And journalists know this. They know it is a case of having your cake and eating it. They know that groups do this when they want to try and distance themselves for PR reasons but also benefit from the support of the worst members. And some of the worst members of GG have also been the most active.

          So when people are attacked for supporting GG it is silly and pointless to say that journalists should assume these supporters are just supporting the letter writing consumer revolt. Because they aren’t. They are also supporting the movement that has consistently refused to put in place any system to expel the people who are also writing death threats.

          Any journalist worth their salt will not simply take one anonymous members word that another anonymous member isn’t really a member and is just a troll making the group look bad.

          1. Seems my responses ‘disappeared’ (or got severely delayed).

            Guess the only thing I can say is you are reiterating the guilt-by-association fallacy. I wonder what the ratio between violent extremist muslims are to real muslims compared to GamerGate and (confirmed) associated threats with it. Surely you are not arguing all muslims are terrorists?

          2. This is assuredly vilification. On many occasions we have seen death threats being linked with Gamergate for no discernible reason as neither videogames, nor gaming, nor the gamergate hashtag were mentioned, nor were the accounts sending threats in any way connected with gamergate, and yet we have been accused of this crime because of this strange perception that we are responsible for all hate and death threats sent towards these figures. And antis have often been giving a free pass for all the rampant harassment they have engaged in (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5zKunaiCQw). Also, your assertion that these journalists are trustworthy is inherently one that we dispute. If games media were ethical to begin with, we would not be starting an outcry about it. We’ve witnessed a great deal of compromised relations between media figures and the subjects of their coverage over the years. The Kane & Lynch scandal with Jeff Gerstmann years ago highlighted the connection between advertising revenue and review scores (Gerstmann was fired because his low review score of a heavily promoted game caused them to drop advertisement and lose the publication money). The Doritogate scandal highlighted the unhealthy relationship between media and advertisers while showcasing many videogame journalists who saw no ethical problems whatsoever with accepting free all-expenses-paid trips, “swag” collectible items, and shamelessly promoting the subjects that they were supposed cover. The Mass Effect 3 ending furor highlighted the disconnect with the games media as many journalists had no qualms whatsoever about blaming the consumers for being overly entitled when consumers insisted that they deserved better than the rushed product that they received (particularly the bland ending without real closure to what was a narratively dense trilogy). Many of us have long felt that the gaming press no longer represents the consumer’s interests and while we have been outraged time and time again, Gamergate was a straw that broke the camel’s back as we saw that not only mainstream developers, but even independent game developers were establishing unhealthy relations (sexual relations even) with media figures who provide them positive press coverage and we began to form a longterm movement dedicated towards rooting out such abuses and bringing the fight to a gaming press that feels comfortable openly scorning its own readerbase.

    3. The first thing journalists who look into gamergate do is look for the origin of the name. When they do they find the Adam Baldwin tweet linking to two creepy conspiracy theory videos attacking Zoe Quinn (or at least they did until the videos were taken down).

      That’s the first strike against Gamergate’s narrative.

      The second thing they do is read through hundreds of tweets on the gamergate hashtag on twitter, the reddit KotakuInAction stuff, and 8chan. It doesn’t make gamergate look very good. All of those sources are filled with obsessive attacks on the targeted women and crazy rumors, like the hoax Nick Denton facebook page that had him writing in the tone of Snidely Whiplash. EVERYONE outside Gamergate was laughing at that one, and it took three or four days before it slowly dawned on gamergate that it was a clumsy hoax.

      Today someone’s circulating a graphic accusing Chris Kluwe of collusion with people practicing bestiality. And there were active gamergaters defending the graphic! At some point one of the “moderate” gamergaters is likely to use the “No True Scotsman …” defense, claiming that the graphic has nothing to do with gamergate.

      I’ve interacted with gamergaters on numerous occasions, and they are always sincerely outraged that I don’t do adequate “research” to accept their narrative. Well, it’s because it’s a chaotic and crazy narrative, with its own peculiar lingo (SJWs, LWs, “professional victims”).

      I would love to have been able to write articles contrary to the dominant media view of gamergate. It would have been the ultimate clickbait. But I couldn’t, because every path I took led me to the conclusion that the whole “movement” was basically an anti-feminist conspiracy theory, with the worst aspects of reddit and “channer” culture.

      Finally let’s talk about “ethics in journalism”. I’ve seen absolutely no discussion of the actual codes of ethics that journalists operate under. Three months of talking about “ethics in gaming journalism”, and no one cites the SPJ’s Code, or the AP’s guidelines, or any of the other clearly written and long-standing codes of ethics. Unethical journalism seems to consist of publishing articles which attack the gamergater’s sense of gaming identity.

      1. With retards to ethics, I’m not certain where your misinformation comes from, but if you ask gamers what they mean by journalistic ethics, the SPJ gets cited with extreme regularity. Reuters has been cited. The AP has not. And as the subject concerns an entertainment media and ethical press coverage, Roger Ebert’s Little Rulebook has been cited on occasion as well.

        If you want to look into the history of gamergate, you might want to consider the Know Your Meme page here: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/gamergate

        If you read reddit’s KotakuInAction, the right side of the page immediately links the Gamergate Press Dossier. If you read the 8chan /gamergate/ board, the Gamergate sticky will provide a more detailed explanation. If you have any questions, just ask on these boards (or the twitter feed, for that matter). You don’t need to register (in fact there is no registration system) on 8chan to post. Just start a thread and ask about Gamergate. People have done it and they receive answers.

        The Nick Denton hoax came from a person (KingOfPol) we thought reputable and reliable providing falsified evidence and the hoax appeared to have been independently confirmed (rather, it had been confirmed on the basis that KoP seemed trustworthy). However, the hoax was unmasked soon enough as the independent confirmation strove to actually independently confirm it and KoP refused to provide the information necessary to confirmation, instead uttering variations on “Don’t you trust me?” So the person apologized for “confirming” the evidence and explained what happened (that KoP had lied). In the resulting fallout, KoP had a severe fall from grace and became persona-non-grata, as he was more concerned for his ego than ethics. As I understand it, on other occasions antis prefer to cite KoP as a former gamergate supporter who now claims that the there is terrible harassment from gamergate since he’s been disowned for his flagrant dishonesty. We’re also much stronger sticklers for independently verifiable evidence than before (we were sticklers for evidence before, but now we take a “no exceptions” stance).

        1. That SPJ code of ethics includes the following, in the “Act Independently” section:

          “Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.”

          GamerGate is trying to pressure journalists through advertisement money. If journalists caved to this pressure, according to the ethics code GamerGate mentions, they would be committing an unethical action.

          Not to mention that trying to pressure journalists to stop acting independently is unethical. So where’s GamerGate’s shining example? Why should we listen to them blather about Ethics, when they don’t act ethically?

          Leaving a website because you disagree with their views would be ethical. Trying to get them to shut up by appealing to their advertisers? Highly unethical.

  2. Oh, thank God we have a GamerGate representative here to explain to the journalism professor how journalism works.

  3. Apologies Dr Calver,

    Unfortunately some folks seem to think that a couple of youtube videos entitles them to patronisingly explain anything to qualified, experienced people working in any field, especially women. I’ll just take him over here so he can show this chicken how to lay eggs.



    p.s Great article 🙂

  4. The gamergate stuff seeping into the comments looks really moronic compared to the fantastic article above it. Thank you for the great read!

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