Archive for the ‘how’ Category

We’ve Been Asked Anything.

Kunkel judge and director answered your burning questions.

On Monday, Kunkel judge Gideon Grudo and I appeared on Reddit’s /r/KotakuInAction to talk about the Kunkel Awards and video games journalism. A few of the members have been inviting us over the last few months, so we figured “Why not?”

For those unaware, KiA calls itself a “platform for open discussion of the issues where gaming, nerd culture, the Internet, and media collide.” Though they have a stance in the GamerGate movement, we didn’t give a shit about that. We care about journalism.

Here are the takeaways:


Why remove the “worst story” category?

Redditors asked Grudo and me three separate questions about why we killed the equally loved and hated “worst story of the year” category. After all, shouldn’t shoddy journalism be called out for what it is?

Well, it should. But I’m not convinced the Kunkels is the appropriate platform to do that right now.

So then, who does punish unethical journalism? In the words of Grudo:

“You don’t really want to have that type of construct. The more structured ethical rules are, the more you risk stifling speech. Consider a federal agency, for example, whose task it is to determine what’s ethically sound and what isn’t. Maybe they’ll provide badges to those journalists they deem ethical. Maybe they’ll forbid access to those they don’t. Consider industry attempting the same thing. Shivers. Defining ethics isn’t easy.”

A concern that popped up was that the Kunkel director and its judges were trying not to hurt journalists’ feelings. Short answer: We don’t give a shit about hurting people’s feelings. We give a shit about quality, ethical journalism, and could care less about who wrote it or how they feel.

New director, new approach. Former Kunkel Awards Director Michael Koretzky’s instincts were to publicly, harshly call out the shoddy journalism and give it a joke award. I agree with calling out unethical journalism, but not like this.

Of course, this could certainly change down the line as the Kunkels grow up.


What do we think of writers who don’t abide by a code of ethics?

“No one has to abide by a code of ethics,” wrote Gideon. “Everyone should abide by a code of ethics. Nationally distributed papers. Underground papers. Big papers. Small. Skinny. Fat. Ugly. Pretty. Don’t matter. Journalists have an obligation to be journalistic. While that ain’t easy to define, ethics codes do a good job attempting it, and at least provide some solid agreements between reporter and reader, like ’this is what this person said’ or ‘I fact checked this claim and reported the results.’”


Do we have to award shit journalism if there’s nothing better?

One Redditor asked if we feel a pressure to award unethical, low-quality work if better, more ethical articles are nowhere to be found.

“The answer is no,” I replied. “If the judges feel none of the entries are worth an award, nobody gets it.”

Gideon added, “If everything is garbage, no one wins. Except our measly blog. We may write it up to explain our dismay…We’re not angry, we’re…disappointed.”

This isn’t a new thing for us. Last year, Excellence in News Reporting had no third place winner. Excellence in College Journalism and Excellence in News Video/Streaming both lacked second and third places. In the first year, Excellence in Photography/Illustration/Infographic (a category we no longer have) only had a first place winner.

We haven’t ditched a first place winner yet, but none of the judges are pressured to pick the best of the worst if they feel none are deserving.


What do we think of the current state of journalism?

That’s way too vague a question to give a valid response without data and analysis. But we could offer anecdotal insight.

“Especially in the last few years, it seems gaming journalism has gained a bad rep — for valid reasons,” I wrote. “Faulty and sometimes nonexistent ethical codes are largely responsible.”

Up-and-coming gaming journalists that publish unethical content largely seem to lack journalism backgrounds. I claimed they are more often gamers first, journalists second, and thus never went to journalism school and learned ethical practices.

A user corrected me — rightfully so. I liked what they wrote, so I’ll quote /u/ITSigno here:

“I think it’s probably better to say there are:

  1. Games journalists who are journalists ‘slumming it’ in games because they didn’t get the WaPo job they really wanted.
  2. Games Journalists who are gamers that have a blog and would like to grow their business/brand around that.
  3. Games Journalists who are actually gamers and journalists.”

Meanwhile, Grudo thinks the state of games journalism is: “There ain’t enough of it, the journos producing it don’t get paid enough for the work they do (for the most part), the journos producing it likely don’t have enough paid hours to go as in-depth as the piece deserves, etc., ad nauseam.”

But that’s not unique to gaming journalism. Grudo expressed that’s true for all journalism, “and likely true of many other producers of things, content and/or otherwise.”


Everything else

Not all of the questions were hard-hitting. Someone asked us about our current and favorite video games.

I’m in the middle of Killing Floor 2, Metro 2033, and Pokemon Ultra Sun. My favorite game is definitely the Witcher III — a game that I finally convinced Grudo to play. Meanwhile, his favorite game is Horizon: Zero Dawn, a game that I personally can’t wait to get my hands on. Maybe we should just make a trade.

More questions poured in as we were wrapping up, and we plan to get back to them during the week. Since we volunteer, we have to put our big-boy jobs first and pay the bills.

That being said, it’s never too late to ask us questions. You’re always free to message us through the Kunkel’s Contact Us page, or hit us up on Twitter. Reach me at @bferrendi and Grudo at @ggrudo.

The Kunkel nominations would normally end this Friday, Jan. 26 — but I’m extending the deadline by a week. You now have until Friday, Feb. 2. Don’t miss out, or else your favorites in gaming journalism could be overlooked.

Nominate your favorite gaming stories and videos of 2017

Younger smarter better

New director, new direction.

Meet Brittany Ferrendi. She’s the new director of the Kunkel Awards.

After two years, I’m turning over the Kunkels to someone half my age, with twice my energy and a billion more hours actually spent playing video games.

(I off-handedly asked her what game she’s playing right now, and I got this long-ass answer…

I’ve been hooked on Mass Effect: Andromeda ever since it came out last month. The series has been a long-time favorite of mine, but when they announced a fourth addition, I was skeptical after seeing a handful of busywork quests in Dragon Age: Inquisition — another game created by the same developers and publishers. I wound up picking ME:A at launch anyway, and I don’t regret a thing. I’m also playing Killing Floor 2 — the game itself is engaging, but it’s the people you play with that truly makes it worthwhile.

…which is a keen reminder why I never engage in small talk.)

When she’s not playing games and actually working for a living, Ferrendi is digital content editor at South Florida Gay News, the largest LGBT publication in the southeast United States. Yet she’s not gay. For this youngest generation of journalists, that shit doesn’t matter – if it’s a cool job, who cares? A big improvement over my generation.

Ferrendi graduated from college only last year, but she was a capable Kunkel judge this year. Some of the most amusing and educational comments were hers. For an awards program that’s only grudgingly gaining acceptance, she gushes, “I was definitely impressed by the response we received to the awards and to the judges’ comments. Our readers are passionate, whether or not they agreed.”

But as contest coordinator, Ferrendi will no longer judge. So what will she do?

  • Consult gaming journalists, readers, and developers to determine how many (and what kind of) categories the Kunkels will offer.
  • Recruit judges and sets deadlines for their wise decisions and nasty comments.
  • Writes up those comments in blog posts and winner remarks that are intended to both teach and encourage quality journalism.
  • Act as spokesperson to anyone who wants to talk or complain about the Kunkels.

Alas, the position is neither paid nor respected. It comes without perks such as free travel, cash bribes, or horny groupies. But Ferrendi still wants the gig, because in 10 years, she envisions this…

I’d love to see the Kunkels advance to its own spot at E3. We’d have more resources available to aspiring video game journalists and be an essential part of the Society of Professional Journalists. Video games are being taken more seriously in mainstream media, with their own timeslots on ESPN — I envision gaming journalism will be just as important in the coming years as sports journalism is today.

I’d love to see that myself, so I’m sticking around to help – by working for Ferrendi. If you want to share your own vision for the Kunkels with her, she’s at

That’s a wrap


Now comes the hard part.

Nominations for the Kunkel Awards closed Friday at midnight. Thank God. We received a whopping 291 entries that cover all five categories.

Starting today, three SPJ judges start reading, watching, and rating them all. We expect that to take 4-6 weeks of their spare time.

About halfway through that arduous process, we’ll release the judges’ Top 10 in each category. Before they choose three finalists, those judges will review public comments, looking for factual errors they may have missed in their own research. (Yup, we’re crowdsourcing our fact-checking.)

Just so you know how judging usually works for any contest…

It’s real easy to cut down to the Top 10, because so many entries simply don’t measure up. But it takes twice as long to cut from 10 to three, and twice as long as that to settle on the winner. Why? Because the differences between stellar entries get smaller and smaller.

So the hard part is also the fun part.

5 serious doubts


Can I convince the critics?

Some gamers believe the Kunkel Awards are doomed, either for philosophical or personal reasons.

Here are the most common themes from Reddit and 8chan, followed by my gentle attempts at persuasion…

How is this a good thing? Most of the gaming media is complete shit, and this just gives those fuckers an opportunity to circle jerk and make themselves look good.

Last things first…

  • The author of this comment obviously has more experience than I do, but a circle jerk requires everyone to be intimately involved. The Kunkel Awards are judged by professional journalists who aren’t gaming journalists, thus neither group knows or meets the other.
  • Greed is good. If you reward excellent gaming journalism, you encourage more of it. Even reporters who are “complete shit” strive for upward mobility, and their resumes will benefit from winning awards bestowed by journalists who don’t know them.

I never supported this idea. SPJ should not be in the business of giving out awards, and instead act like a health inspector, but for journalistic ethics. Awarding individual pieces like this is like awarding a good dish at a restaurant that’s simultaneously infested with roaches and rats and breaking ever OSHA code in the book.

SPJ can’t shut down a media outlet like the health department can shut down a restaurant – nor do we want that power.

Instead, SPJ criticizes those who blatantly violate its Code of Ethics, from Rolling Stone’s “numerous failings” to Gawker’s “poor taste” to Brian Williams’ “tall tale.”

That might not sound like much, but journalists know they aren’t exactly respected by the public. The last thing they need is getting hassled by their own kind. So except for a few unethical assholes, the system mostly works.

We hope installing that system in the gaming press works, too.

SPJ offers awards because you need both carrots and sticks in this world. Complaining about bad journalism doesn’t show you how to do good journalism. So SPJ holds up shining examples of excellence and encourages everyone to emulate them.

The awards will be co-oped and used to by the hipsters to thumb their noses at gamers. Just like all other awards.

For decades, SPJ has offered awards for pro and college journalists. I’ve been a judge, off and on, for both since 2008. Maybe the Kunkels will be different, but so far, I’ve yet to be “co-oped” by a hipster.

This seems to be another hot mess of an idea from Koretzky.

Koretzky seems determined to try and some how make a name for himself via GamerGate, no matter how odd the suggestions are. The whole Airplay thing ended up being a joke more than anything (which even Koretzky seems to have recognised), so he is now trying out this.

In order…

  • While I’d love to take credit for the entire “hot mess,” I must confess I had talented help. See the bottom of my last post for details.
  • My ambitions don’t include becoming Master Chief of GamerGate. To achieve that, I’d probably have to play video games more recent than Age of Empires III. Which I don’t.
  • With three months of hindsight, I’ve concluded SPJ AirPlay was a riddle, not a joke.

I somehow foresee GG bitching around when “the wrong people” will win this award.

I somehow foresee all sides bitching.

The gaming community’s emotions have become so weaponized, the Kunkel Awards will be both adored and abhorred. It just depends on which winners confirm the world view of each faction.

But that’s precisely why the Kunkel Awards are so needed. They won’t solve the gaming world’s problems, because journalism never does. But they’re a solid first step, which journalism often is.

5 tough questions


Let’s answer them.

These came to us via email, Twitter, and Reddit. They’ve been edited for brevity but not profanity…

Q. Nominations from fucking New Yorker and Guardian? How’s TechRaptor and Eurogamer supposed to compete?

You’re right, it’s damn near impossible for small media to beat big media in categories like, “Best Overall Coverage.”

But the Kunkel Awards recognize individual stories and streams. And while mainstream media outlets have more staff, they don’t have more niche knowledge.

Mano-a-mano – or womano-a-womano – a savvy gaming journalist can crush a mainstream journalist who’s just parachuting in for a single story.

Q. I’m a bit confused about how this is judged – using journalists who don’t have experience with gaming or games journalism. Since they’re not gamers, how exactly can they judge the accuracy of the article?

The judges will winnow entries to 10 per category, which we’ll share with the gaming public. If anything’s amiss, we’re reasonably sure we’ll hear about it. Gamers aren’t shy about expressing themselves.

At the same time, judges will choose three finalists per category, fact-checking as they go. Of course, this being our first year, we could still screw it up. If we do, we expect to hear about that, too.

By the way, one of our judges met his wife through gaming. None of the judges cover gaming, though.

Q. I’m worried about awarding shitty journalists that do consistent shit work at shit outlets that briefly managed to put out something good.

We’d love that shit!

If a slimy journalist accidentally produces a discrete unit of media excellence, he’ll indeed win a Kunkel Award – and maybe, just maybe, he’ll see more upside in being ethical than click-baity.

Not only do we get an asshole off the street, we convert him to our cause. That’s a two-fer.

Q. How many “photography, illustration, and infographic nominations” you got?

One so far. We knew that category would be sparse, but we wanted to encourage quality artwork – it shouldn’t just be in the games, it should be in the game coverage.

Maybe this category flops, but there’s no reason not to try.

Q. Who the fuck decided this shit?

If you mean, “Kind sir, please describe how the Kunkel Awards were shaped,” here’s what happened. I recruited four experienced gamers for help:

  • a gaming editor (James Fudge)
  • a gaming reporter
  • a noted GamerGate supporter (Mark Ceb)
  • a noted GamerGate opponent

The gaming reporter (who works for a major outlet) and GamerGate opponent want to remain anonymous. I respect their wishes, and so do James and Mark.

All four approved every decision, although Mark and his GamerGate opponent had some terse exchanges – which I found encouraging, because they actually agree on more than you might think, and they disagreed without killing each other or ignoring each other.

Both sides of GamerGate could learn a lot from them.

Got more questions? Holler. Next week: 5 serious doubts.


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