What often comes to mind when we think about journalism is hard-hitting, investigative pieces that help keep the public informed. Journalists living off of cigarettes and coffee, huddled over papers in dim lights, and aggressively approaching people to answer questions for the Monday morning paper – this was the life of the writer, however caricatured it may seem now.
Entering the digital sphere, we have seen some significant changes to the way journalism works. A major change that I would like to bring to attention is the way brands have become an integral part of reporting. Advertising has always been the main source of income for editorial companies, but now, we have entered an age where journalists are half expected to pander to brands in order to keep themselves up and running.
What this implies is that a major news company will have to retreat from publishing anything derogatory or harmful about those who support them. This could even lead into not publishing anything that could harm the reputation of individuals their target audience is in favour of.
Unfortunately, this has diminished the dream that journalism is meant to be objective. In my opinion, it never really was, but it is now more clear than ever that it can only ever be subjective – no matter which way you try to swing the definition. As a result, however, we have seen an equally diminished dream of trust in the press.
Journalism is an important component of democracy and is essential to meet the information needs of any given group of people. With a growing trend of newsrooms, big or small, struggling for relevance, we will see a continued information deficit in their respective communities. As a result, there will be an increase in lack of accountability.
Sadly, traditional news outlets are struggling to keep up with the changes that are necessary to survive in a digital space. This is where the branding issue, mainly, comes in – without the support, they will likely cease to exist.
A bit of a light spot at the end of a seemingly dark tunnel is that the barrier for entry into journalism is significantly lower than it was before the start of the digital revolution. This means that there is more opportunity for those who want to be part of the journalistic voice to achieve their goals.
There is elbow room in the esports industry to help rectify the situation journalism finds itself in, but there has been a worrying trend in esports that has effectively started killing candid conversations. “If we want to do this properly, and we want to do this long term, we do need to have transparent discussions,” said Nibble CEO Glenn ‘Dreamer’ Marc. “That’s the role that’s being missed. There’s no discussion from an objective point of view, or from a place that’s just trying to be holistic about it.”
Currently, the space for transparent discussion is taken up by the ‘it’s who you know’ problem, not whether or not you have something meaningful to say. Due to a flimsy structure that prioritises connections over qualifications in esports, journalism within the industry has taken a hit and become untenable for the foreseeable future.
Marc said that there has been a big dislike of journalism in the industry for a long time. “Journalists were never treated well at all. They were always hated for leaking roster changes, or putting out stories that companies and brands wanted to keep quiet.” And it goes deeper than this; Marc also mentions that he would get death threats and racist remarks on a constant basis while he was still working as a writer in gaming.
This problem becomes a wider and more frightening thing to deal with when we see how far some people will go in the gaming community – with movements like Gamergate coming to mind, it is no surprise that journalists are wary of staying in or entering the gaming industry at large.
In tandem with this issue, a lot of the money that comes into esports is dedicated to the players. “The cost of player salaries completely ballooned the cost of just being involved in esports and trying to make a sustainable economy,” Marc said. This creates an environment where making money in a meaningful way isn’t a focus in esports. Rather, what we see is the creation of opportunities for cash grabs or trying to do things for clout.
There has been very little room for growth or building a sustainable journalism economy.
So, how do we fix this problem?
The first thing that needs to be acknowledged is that this is not a one-part or one-solution-fixes-all problem. A major factor to start with will also be no small feat, and that is shifting gaming culture to a more accepting space. Starting with making communities a better place to exist will bleed into media professionals feeling more comfortable in the space, and also help make journalists a priority in the space.
Making journalists a priority will then attract bigger news companies that can protect their employees effectively and give them the resources they need to do investigations and spread information responsibly.
There is no cut-and-dry answer to resolve the problem. The baseline is that in order for esports to maintain itself as a viable economy, there needs to be an increase in support for transparency and a decrease in setting up for short-term financial success.
Esports has the opportunity to become a major player in changing the journalism landscape, and we need to take charge of that moment while we still can.