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Journalistic Responsibility – Games And Gamers

Posted by on January 18, 2013 at 1:04 pm
If it ain't ethical, STFU!

If it ain’t ethical, STFU!

By now, the word is all over the place regarding the ambush of Rod “Slasher” Breslau by Evil Geniuses members on Inside the Game. (If not, you can find a PC Gamer article about it, including the twitch video, here)

There are a lot of opinions flying around about thow this was handled and what responsibilities journalists have in regards to reporting news. What should be reported, what shouldn’t be reported, what kinds of things we should and shouldn’t tell the public.

Of course, I have an opinion on this…And I’m going to share it.

First I want to talk about what “journalistic responsibility” means to me. First off, we journalists do not have a responsibility to report everything we hear or read about. Some people would argue that it is our job to make sure the public knows what is going on in the world and to a degree, that is true. Unfortunately for the people who think that we, as journalists, must report on everything we know, there is a standard in the world of journalism called the “Harm Reduction Principle” which helps define what we should and should not talk about.

Part of the harm reduction principle states that we should “show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.”

Some would argue that this principle applies to people who would be upset or aggrieved at having certain details of an incident reported on. For example, if a child’s mother and father are killed in a car accident, it is irresponsible for the media to go asking difficult questions of the child or to publish photos of the deceased in a place where the child could see them.

This principle doesn’t just apply to emotional harm though…It can refer to pecuniary harm as well.

When a journalist gets a piece of information which is “leaked” and can cause harm to the person or company about which the information pertains, that information should not be reported on and this is where the ethical dilemma comes in. We journalists have the responsibilty to make sure that things we report on will not cause harm to anyone.

Yeah, I think things have gotten twisted up in the last decade or so.

You see, nowadays people talk about this mystical concept of journalistic responsibilty as if it is an excuse for us to write about everything we come into contact with. Sure, the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution give us the right to do so but it doesn’t say we must. Based on this, people cry “JOURNALISTIC RESPONSIBILITY!!” every time they want to talk about something that shouldn’t be talked about. This, in my opinion, is wrong.

I believe that, instead, journalistic responsibility applies to our responsibility to make the right choices about what we do and don’t report on. It is about our journalistic responsibility to make sure that we report the things which are fair to pass on to the public and keep secret the things which aren’t.

Unfortunately, we have to deal with these things called “circulation”, “ratings”, “traffic” and “marketing”. Those things drive many journalists to report on things which are better left as secret, because they want to bump their ratings and make more money…Afterall, the guys with the most readers are the ones that the advertisers want to spend money with, right? So if you get a leaked piece of information, you MUST break that information before everyone else does, in order to capture those readers and make more cash.

Yep…that’s what “journalistic responsibility” has been reduced to. It is our “responsibility” to get information out there as fast as possible so whichever periodical or media outlet or new service we work for can big numbers and make big money.

I say that’s hogwash.

I, for one, would rather practice REAL journalistic responsibility and not report on the things that shouldn’t be talked about. I would rather look at a bit of leaked information and make a real, integrity-based decision on whether or not it should be shared than to make my decision based on how much of a bonus it is going to get me.

So there’s my piece on that. Now to talk about the situation with Breslau; He was ambushed because he made a decision to share leaked information regarding which players were going to be signed by various eSports teams. I’m sorry but, who fucking cares? He wasn’t reporting on stock prices, he wasn’t reporting on earnings statements and he wasn’t reporting which line in what game had to have a zero changed to a 1 in order to make it go from 24 FPS to a locked 60 FPS. He wasn’t sharing any information which would ruin or endanger anyone’s life and he certainly wasn’t sharing any information which could upset someone to the point that they had a nervous breakdown.

He reported on who was being signed to eSports teams.

I fail to see the problem here…as long as the information was accurate.

And that’s the biggest rub of all. The information has to be accurate.

Allow me to sum up;

If a journalist gets ahold of information which, if reported, could negatively impact a person or company’s ability to continue on with their normal course of life or operations, or if they get ahold of information which can not be verified and fact checked, or if they are given information and told that the information is under embargo, it is their journalistic responsibility to keep that information secret until such time as it will not be harmful and can be verified.

If the information will not significantly damage someone, and is verifiable as factual, though, THEN (and only then) is it that person’s journalistic responsibility to make sure it gets out to the public.

So, eSports guys – Get over it. Less QQ, moar PEWPEW. For irresponsible journalists and those who use “journalistic responsibility” as an excuse to be assholes, get a clue. You’re not special just because you’re a “journalist”.

$0.02

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