Final finalists


The worst for last?

No journalism is easy, but news writing might be the hardest. Even an hour-long video has only a fraction of the words and sources in a solid news story.

So for Kunkel Award’s fifth and final category, our three judges harshly assessed even the best of the 116 entries.

No one was spared – from Breitbart’s Exposed: The Secret Mailing List of the Gaming Journalism Elite (“I have no idea what got exposed or why it matters, because no one’s telling me how or why”) to Kotaku’s How Binding of Isaac Fans Ended Up Digging Holes in Santa Ana, California (“A fun blow-by-blow of a sort of digital scavenger hunt, but Christ, I hate the top of almost every one of these Kotaku stories. Get. To. The. Point.”)

Below are the eight finalists for Excellence in News Reporting, in no particular order and with comments from two judges per finalist. All three judges will review any comments below, elsewhere online, and submitted here. Then it’s time to pick the winners and see what happens.

(By the way, “lede” is journo-jargon for the first sentence or two of a story, and “graf” is short for paragraph. Don’t even get me started on the double entendre of other terminology.)

Women and Video Games
  • “Heavy on sourcing, which is good, but light on bringing it together and telling me why all this matters. Specifically, the tweet in the lede isn’t explained for graf after graf. Tell me why I should care or I won’t.”
  • “Interesting analysis. I love the sourcing. The headline is terribly broad, though, and it sometimes veers into editorializing. I’m not sure this category was the best fit.”

The promise — and massive challenge — of making games for the Apple Watch
  • “Clear. Timely. Well-sourced. Kinda boring beginning and a very dry thesis, but it’s an important story. That said, it’s a product announcement. Award worthy?”
  • “The premise of this article, ‘microgames,’ is probably the stupidest thing I’ve read in this category. But the writing itself is solid, the quotes are mostly helpful and relevant, and the sourcing is good.”

Testing the Steam Refund system
  • “Finally! News happens, reporter jumps into the mud and reports how deep it is. Detail, pizzazz, interest, and of course journalism.”
  • “A bit squishy, but news you can use with a step-by-step. I like that.”

The Horrible World Of Video Game Crunch
  • “This isn’t news. It’s a feature. And it’s got all kinds of stuff that make me want to read it: original sourcing, interesting and untapped info, a good lede.”
  • “I really love this story, the details and interviews are amazing, and this is so much more important (and carries so much more human interest) than the slew of GamerGate submissions. I think it would have done far better in the feature category, or an explanatory category if we had one. But I’m willing to consider it as ‘in-depth news’ because it’s definitely not opinion and the reporting is there.”

The Messy, True Story Behind The Making Of Destiny
  • “I’m pretty sure this is an important story, but why did the writer take so long to tell me so? Such a long-winded intro about nothing that matters as much as what comes at its end. Pair with all anonymous sources and I’m disappointed by the time I’m supposed to be engaged. Still, I guess a 13-month investigation is worth something.”
  • “Badly needs better editing. This should’ve been so much cooler than it turned out – and it’s kind of a theme with Kotaku submissions. Instead of balancing the juicy stuff with the backstory, we have to wade through all the backstory before getting to all the hard investigative work. Frustrating.”

The People Who Make Brutal Video Game Porn
  • “Interesting. Good lede, good background. But where’s a human source? Something other than information. I mean, we’re talking about porn. Porn’s about people, but this story apparently isn’t. Still interesting, though.”
  • “Interested, but can’t find the news and don’t understand why the people teased in the headline aren’t interviewed. First quote is hundreds of words – and six videos/pictures – deep. So it reads more like, ‘Hey guys, check out this kinky shit’ until pretty far into the story. Great for horny teenagers, not great for anyone looking for some kind of psychology or big picture.”

Star Citizen Employees Speak Out on Project Woes
  • “Whoa. Heavy stuff. I’d be into this kind of journalism on the regular.”
  • “My biggest issue is how dense this is. I want more section breaks and maybe some internal summary. The ones it has now do that, fortunately – but it’s still a slog.”

Anatomy of a hoax
  • “Powerful stuff, but man, does it take its time getting to the point. Sourcing the news channel so heavily is a sure way to bore me. I don’t want to read through all that. Just tell me what happened and link me to it so I can read deeper if I want to.”
  • “Good reporting. Love the outreach to the station, the anonymous source, and the attempt to thoroughly document how the original story unfolded. It does get bogged down, a little repetitive, and focuses on some irrelevant details, but all that’s forgivable for the shoe leather here.”

Coming soon: The winners of the 2015 Kunkel Awards.

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  • I’m reluctant to comment on the Star Citizen article, since I’m fond of the Serenity Prayer adage “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” and I certainly can’t change anything about these awards.

    But the sources in the article are all anonymous former employees, code named like cyborgs from a bad sci-fi movie. ANONYMOUS FORMER EMPLOYEES. The writer couldn’t get former employees to go on the record? Notice too that the story was run before Roberts responded, and was edited after many people had already read the article.

    I’m not a booster of Star Citizen. Any game where people are sinking thousands of dollars into an unfinished product raises my eyebrows. But this was a half-finished investigative piece. There’s no indication of whether the employees were in any positions to evaluate the financial state of the company, no current employees (anonymous or otherwise) were interviewed, and the Escapist rushed the article out before Roberts responded. This could probably have been a decent article with more patience.

    • Kajisan

      Same thoughts. To be honest: Nobody really gave a bloody ink about the development time of Final Fantasy 15. It’s done when its done. It’s not like Star Citizen is some sort of Duke Nukem Forever or Daikatana. At the current state – its a game, deep in development and from first screenshots to current quality of game assets, they’re in quite a good shape. Nobody ever quoted Chris back in 2012 telling that the road map is supposed to run till 2020 and beyond. Expected 100 million and more? Probably calculated. The term “development” should already imply that some game features/modes may change during the production.

      In the end, nobody outside the industry really knows that higher quality “movie like” 3D assets take up more time to be build than regular game assets. Watching a five minute long 3d artist credit list at the end of Avengers or The Force Awakens probably gives a wink how much effort it takes to create a few shots in a two hour movie..and upcoming games.

      • Kajisan

        Little addendum: Yes, internal problems may happen. Every game or movie or automobile company has to deal with it every day. Making these problems public, writing an article about – not sure if this is worth getting an award, especially since the Jury doesn’t have any background to judge over this article or the things that lead to it. It makes no sense, not for me.

    • David Kleidon

      It was trash journalism / click-bait at best. The story lacked one very important ingredient, FACTS ! The story was based on pure innuendo, not a single fact to back up the article. Also the ex-employees were from a website called Glassdoor where anyone could post that they work for a company and had issues when they never in fact even worked there. It was such trash, just like the author, pure trash!

  • I’m going to say something nice about one of the gamergate entries. I’ve been waiting for one I thought was well-reported, and one finally came along. Glasgow’s article about WSB’s screw-up is pretty good, and needed to be reported. He attempted to reach the station, reported on what the station did and said, and told it in an engaging way. It was thorough and interesting.

    It wasn’t peppered with conspiracy-theory buzzwords, and lacked the snide rant-factor of the other gamergate entries.

    • Aidey

      Got any examples of these conspiracy theory buzz words?

  • Calem

    So one of the biggest events in the history of gaming journalism gets ignored with claims of “No one told me why or how this matters?”, but an article, about Games on the Apple Watch, which holds absolutely no significance at all, since it’s a product that is way too expensive and will never hold a large consumerbase to have any relevance for game developers is praised as important? I’ve read through the article, and for people not familiar with the tech terms used and described in that article, it’s a hard and boring read. I even skipped a few paragraphs.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t believe what I’m reading here. The article about the GJP clearly states the significance.

    “The GameJournoPros emails appear to confirm widely-held suspicions that video game journalists operate with one voice and collude on major issues to distort coverage of ethics violations and to support figures to whom they are politically sympathetic.”

    It gives clear examples of who was involved and how they tried to direct away attention from this event. As the quote above said, it was long suspected that there is huge corruption and collusion in the video game press and the uncover of this mailing list pretty much proved it. Journalists were actively colluding to suppress news about their own corruption. They actively pressured colleagues to take down articles about it. They went on to smear the people that called them out for their corruption. How can you claim that the article didn’t tell you how this matters when it’s clearly stated in the article?

    “Testing the Steam Refund system” isn’t even news. It’s barely journalism. It’s a “how to get a refund on steam” and gives a few details of the process. It doesn’t even explore the limitations of the refund system, like what if you play 2h 10m (the official max playtime you can refund a game is 2h). It doesn’t cover regional differences where different laws may apply (e.g. EU and NA). It’s just a walk through. Info that could have been found posted by users on forums via a simple google search. Even less info than that, since, as said, it doesn’t even explore more extreme cases. The author of that article didn’t try to refund a game he bought before steam refund was a thing and that he played for less than 2h (very common). I just don’t see how this is worth a nomination alongside important stories like the Kotaku one about Crunch Time, the escapist one about the Star Citizen Employees, the Anatomy of a hoax, which is very significant or the Breitbart one about one of the biggest controversies in gaming journalism and journalism in general.

    I’m obviously biased, but I claim the same for the writer of the comment about the GJP.

  • As for the Breitbart piece, when I get time I’m going to set up a .mailing list called “Fuck-you-wingnuts—journalists-have-a-right-to-interact-with-each-other”

    A bit of a long name, but it gets the point across

    • Calem

      Interact with each other is not the same as pressure other journalists into removing articles, blacklist journalists that committed wrong-think, etc. There is obviously a line that was overstepped by that mailing list. It’s true that this single article might not have covered this yet, but there have been more in regards to this news piece.

      You can’t tell me that there is nothing wrong if a clique of journalists can dictate the conversation and influence other journalists not to work or just dismiss a single person, because this person doesn’t subscribe to their progressive views?

      Edit: Or worse, suppress news pieces and coordinate a wide spread attack on consumers as to appear that they are holding the opinions of the masses and representing what the consumer wants.

      • Aidey

        Don’t even bother. Read his comments on the other nominations. He is clearly biased and is willing to make shit up to try to discredit any nomination he sees as a gamergate one.

        • Calem

          Yeah, I just looked into him. He has been regularly retweeting anti-GG personalities like mmeyers, chu, fullmcintosh, graham linneham and amib, basically the who’s of the people that are actively arguing against GamerGate. Makes sense that he ignores the relevance and even mocks the existence of such a mailing list. He is basically against GamerGate himself and thinks we are all misogynist, sexist, racist, homophobic shitlords that don’t have a right to exist.

          Edit: Damn, Harper, Tauriq Moosa, Leigh Alexander, even goons like SuperSpacedad. This guy is apparently following everyone that is against gamergate. Very telling. He even retweeted the pedophile and these are just from february of this year. He’s probably following all of the Who’s.

          • Be sure to pass this critical information on to the judges, along with a color coded graph with lines running to everyone I’ve ever retweeted, and everyone THEY’VE ever retweeted. You can’t be too careful, or too obsessive.

          • Calem

            No need. You aren’t important enough for that.

      • Vetarnias

        “blacklist journalists that committed wrong-think”

        Because that’s not what GG’s own DeepFreeze is about, of course.

        Also, you really don’t get it. “The consumer” isn’t some kind of almighty God you can invoke to justify getting rid of voices you don’t like, whether it’s in video games journalism, academe, or in games production. It’s not even whether the journalists in question are “corrupt” (according to any credible meaning of the word, like payola, or giving high scores just to keep your job) — you don’t like the message, so you want it gone. Recently, you’ve even turned against Jeff Gerstmann, formerly your idea of Mr. Ethics (as a result of that 2007 affair at GameSpot), because he was now “anti-consumer” — just because he told you that if you complained that much about localized editions of Japanese games, maybe you should consider learning Japanese.

        From what I’ve seen of Gaters, you think a reviewer is “corrupt” because he gave the lowest score to a game, and that you justify this by saying (1) this low score is “objectively” proven to be wrong if it deviates from the rest of the 9.0 consensus; and (2) the reviewer is lying and he’s just being contrarian for clicks.

        And naturally, if it has all that Social-Justice-Warriory Cultural-Marxist propaganda in it, then the sooner it’s gone, the better to you. As if “SJWs” didn’t count as “consumers”. As if The Consumer could only be a white middle-class guy with an extended adolescence whose self-esteem is so fragile that his tastes must be validated at every time of his existence — oh wait, don’t you accuse “SJWs” of being too fragile with their safe-spacing BS and that they should just grow a thicker skin?

        Ironically, Gaters might have had a point about “SJWs”, a term I don’t use because I don’t like cliches, but which I saw in action long before GG — if Gaters weren’t exactly like them in their attempts to censor material which runs contrary to their view of the world. Worse, Gaters add on top of that a layer of hypocrisy by pretending they’re for free speech when they are in actuality the commissars of free speech.

        Hence my incomprehension at the SPJ’s desire to give in to the desires of people whose ideas run contrary to freedom of the press. Gater are not just anti-free-press, but anti-intellectual and anti-art as well. Trumpism with training wheels.

    • chizwoz

      You have a right to fart in crowded lifts. Just don’t do it if you want to keep the rest of the world happy.

      • If I wanted to make everyone happy, I’d have chosen a different field. Maybe doughnut chef.

        • chizwoz

          Well I meant games journalists. Given that their salary comes from keeping their audience happy, it’s generally not a good idea to conspire behind closed doors, whilst presenting the illusion of competing companies to the public.

  • Sulla Felix

    Keep doing good work to highlight quality writing. That is what every reader deserves.

  • itsnotmyfault

    I love the Adrian Chmielarz piece. I was so disappointed when it wasn’t a finalist for a feature story (because I nominated as a feature), but now there’s some recognition for his cautious, well-researched, thoughtful, and thought provoking writing. I hope he wins!


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