Ha! Ha! That’s terrible!


This joke is hilarious…

Q. What do you call a meeting of journalists who want to discuss the journalism in the student newspaper at a public university?

A. Closed to the public.

Welcome to Florida Atlantic University, which is a real funny place. Last semester, FAU appointed a Journalism Task Force of mostly faculty. Their mission: “Improve” the reporting in its student newspaper. But they closed their meetings to the public after I showed up at one.

“Your last visit caused concern for some faculty who felt it was disruptive to have a non-member of the task force at the table,” JTF chairman Neil Santaniello emailed me.

He added…

The Communication Department consulted with FAU General Counsel on whether the JTF meetings were open to the public. The interpretation we received: the task force is a fact-finding body, not a decision-making body. In short: JTF meetings are not public. The school director, David Williams, came to the same conclusion

That’s funny for three reasons…

  1. I sat in the back of the meeting and said nothing unless spoken to. How is that “disruptive”?
  2. Santaniello and three other JTF faculty members are former journalists who once quietly observed meetings themselves.
  3. FAU’s attorney is so wrong, it’s not even funny.

This joke is illegal…

“Under Florida law, advisory committees formed for the purpose of making recommendations are subject to both our open meetings law and the public records law,” says attorney Barbara Petersen, who’s also president of the First Amendment Foundation, based in Florida’s capital of Tallahassee.

In the nation’s capital, another attorney agrees.

“Legally, I think the answer is pretty clear,” says Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, DC. “This is really a ‘task force’ appointed to participate in the decision process — it’s not just six people informally getting together for a brainstorming session.”

Because of that, “Under Florida law, it’s a public meeting and must comply with all of the legal formalities — including giving public notice and letting the public attend.”

I’ve twice emailed David Williams, the director of FAU’s Communication School. In an amusing twist, he refuses to communicate with me.


This joke is sad…

After hearing these legal opinions, FAU administrators still didn’t open those Journalism Task Force meetings. Instead, they shut down the entire project.

Here’s the joint statement yesterday from arts and letters dean Heather Coltman and student affairs vice president Corey King

Due to the desire of some individuals to create unnecessary conflict that does not contribute to the progress of student journalism at FAU or aid in the progress of designing a better learning experience for students, we have decided to suspend the activities of the task force.

I’m fairly certain I’m one of those “individuals.”

I had threatened to crash the next JTF meeting and force them to arrest me, because that would’ve been hilarious: Journalists calling the cops to arrest a journalist trying to report on a meeting of journalists talking about journalism.


This joke is typical…

Weirdly, Coltman and King believe open meetings do “not contribute to the progress of student journalism at FAU.”

That confuses the SPLC’s Frank LoMonte…

Leaving the law aside, it’s ponderous why any discussion of the structure of a journalism program should exclude interested campus stakeholders. The biggest question would be: Why would you want to?

The reason we have a legal requirement to conduct meetings in the open is because closed meetings inherently breed distrust. Any decision produced by a meeting from which the public is purposefully and consciously excluded will be tainted by a cloud of illegitimacy.

Of course, if the real purpose of the Journalism Task Force was to scheme ways to gut the newspaper’s embarrassing coverage of FAU, then secret meetings make sense.

LoMonte and many others wouldn’t be shocked if the JTF was just the latest assault on a student newspaper that’s uncovered uncomfortable truths in the past – like its investigation of FAU’s Board of Trustees that found those 13 overseers of the school’s finances have personally accumulated “three bankruptcy filings, seven foreclosures, 21 tax warrants, and one federal tax lien.”

Now that’s good comedy.


This joke ain’t over.

The punchline here is: College media rarely “win” these battles, but if they always fight with a smile, they’ll never lose. In this millennium alone, FAU has, among other things…

  • tried locking students out of their newsroom
  • illegally frozen the newspaper’s budget
  • fired its adviser
  • threatened the editor with student conduct court if she met with that adviser even off campus

…yet FAU’s student journalists have always gotten the last laugh, then landed good jobs. That’s because you value most what you must fight to keep. And FAU loves to pick a fight.

“If there’s any university in America that has earned zero benefit of the doubt in its treatment of journalists,” LoMonte says, “it’s Florida Atlantic, with its deplorably long rap sheet of stonewalling and harassment.”

So if the students at FAU can win weirdly, you can, too. We’re here to help. Check out SMACK for details.

Michael Koretzky was FAU’s part-time newspaper adviser from 1998 until 2010, when he was fired. The staff asked him to volunteer, which he still does to this day.


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24 Responses to “Ha! Ha! That’s terrible!”

  1. Dori Zinn Says:

    As an FAU alum and journalist, this is one of the more disappointing issues since I’ve graduated.

    I will say, though, I’m thrilled to see FAU attempting to help student journalists now. None of my classes there have benefitted my career. (While the student-run newspaper, the University Press, has.) I just never believed they’d do it in such an ass-backwards and illegal manner.

    I suspect administrators are aware abridging the rights of journalists will only hurt the school in the long run. As president of the SPJ Florida Pro chapter, I plan to monitor the situation closely and help the students of FAU in any way I possibly can. I’m sure other FAU grads, and in particular FAU SPJers sprinkled across the state and country, will do the same.

  2. Brandon Ballenger Says:

    It does leave you wondering what the goal of the task force was if they’re dismantling it at the first sign of a little scrutiny. Definitely watching for further attempts to “improve” things. I support the end, but care about the means too.

  3. Enough already Says:

    Gamer Gate is not the biggest story in gaming but 2 entries are about it. Is the SPJ totally in the bag for Gamer Gate? If either of these submittals wins, the SPJ reveals themselves as taking sides in a controversy that is so over.

  4. Nonscpo Says:

    The problem as I see it is that there’s not enough coverage about these awards, as a consequence, people who would otherwise vote for these things aren’t participating. Though to be fair I’m more amazed that they can’t even fill ten slots per category!

  5. John Cobalt Says:

    If GamerGate is not the biggest story in 2015, what is?

  6. Fear Me I Am Free Says:

    > Gamer Gate is not the biggest story in gaming but 2 entries are about it.

    Because they were well written articles.

    > Is the SPJ totally in the bag for Gamer Gate?

    TIL that GG and the SPJ care about ethics.

    > If either of these submittals wins, the SPJ reveals themselves as taking sides in a controversy that is so over.

    1. It’s not.
    2. They will be chosen because they are well written pieces, not because they are totes taking sides.

    You come off as an incredibly salty person.

  7. Bill Says:

    It’s not as if the award exists due to SPJ’s discussions about ethical failings of Game Journalism with Gamergate or anything, right? Not a big story my ass. :^)

  8. AcidFog Says:

    “Gamer Gate is not the biggest story in gaming” name one that’s bigger for 2014 and 2015

  9. dirtysteve Says:

    Not only is GG the biggest story for the last 2 years in gaming, it has arguably created a larger cultural shift.
    Look at Twitter, how many of it’s ‘Trust and Safety Council’ are a direct result of GG?

  10. Macavity Says:

    So, let me see if I understand you right.

    You believe that:

    1) A major (and, I might add, ONGOING) scandal
    2) In the gaming press
    3) That involves multiple employees of high-profile outlets, who
    4) were involved in multiple flagrant and undeniable ethical breaches, and who, in turn
    5) Committed even more ethical breaches in an attempt to discredit their critics, and
    6) Continue to commit similar ethical breaches, despite the fact that the narrative they seek to promulgate is rapidly crumbling

    …is not “the biggest story in gaming”?

    With all due respect, sir, I heartily disagree with your assessment.

    Furthermore, GamerGate will not be over until such time as the gaming press at the very least:

    A) stops committing the aforementioned ethical breaches, and
    B) adopts (and enforces) policies to prevent such breaches from occurring in future

    And even then… while the hashtag may fade away, the principles behind it will remain.

    As the Council Representative said in XCOM: Enemy Unknown: “Remember… we will be watching.”

  11. randomactor Says:

    These are awful…are these really the best? Who are the judges for this mess with such horrible taste?

  12. John Smith Says:

    Hey Mike. Hello Judges. I’d just like to provide some friendly insight from a gamer you know.

    To see George Weidman up here with 3 of his videos does not at all surprise me. Considering how good the content is and how well he keeps to his regular schedule, it surprises me every day to think that he isn’t bigger, though he certainly is growing. He is one of the best examples of video games journalism on youtube and in the industry in general right now. If it we’re up to me I would probably vote for him.

    John Bain (TotalBiscut) is a well established and well recognized voice within the industry, and for many years has done some very great journalism.The piece featured here is probably one of his better examples. If George we’re not in the running John would have my vote.

    LeoPirate does some great investigative journalism, but not all of it is focused on the Game’s Industry. His “To Catch a Predator” series is probably of best to note, and while related to figures within the GamerGate controversy, isn’t necessarily reflective of the industry. Funnily enough, those particular videos exposing @srhbutts as a pedophile got him banned from twitter. But all of that is getting off topic.

    The SPJ Airplay Abridged cut is an immensely useful tool. Balanced and in sync audio done for me, added with some easy to listen to “chill music” and helpful visuals that weren’t possible at the discussion itself and add so much more context to what is being said. If there was a crowning achievement, or any reward to be taken away from Airplay, it was that abridged cut.

    That being said, I still do not think it’s worth an award like the other pieces thus far, due to the only investigation really being needed to put that video together was common knowledge within the controversy and some archive.is searches. Not to knock on the production value or how great that video was, it’s just that if LeoPirate has to win an award for any of his video’s, it shouldn’t be that one, and probably shouldn’t be a games journalism award.

    While I haven’t watched that particular video by ShortFatOtaku, the Indie-Fensible series stands as a great chain of videos helping to expose the unethical practices and collusion between some of these award shows and their participants, though that seems like a very common thing even in our industries biggest award shows. (I.E. Geoff ‘Dorito Pope’ Keighley’s Video Game Awards of 2015 features judges who we’re also contestants. Notably Hideo Kojima among some other big names.)

    The content is great, well researched, and hard to find anywhere else, but can run on a little long compared to other submissions, and isn’t as well produces on an A/V level.

    Whatever choice you do pick from this list, they are all deserving of awards on some level or another, though I would highly suggest giving your award to George or John. I can only hope the insight I’ve provided her was helpful enough to your judges, and I hope for continued success for these awards.

  13. Larry Felton Johnson Says:

    One person’s “a little smug in it’s journalism” seems to be another person’s “full tilt Alex Jones”. That other person being me, of course. I don’t have time to shout into an echo chamber, but the SPJ should rethink this before it becomes a full-blown embarrassment. I feel bad for the judges, since they don’t have the background to recognize the tinfoil hat elements of some of these videos.

  14. Aidey Says:

    You have yet to point out any tinfoil hat elements other than the stuff you made up.

  15. Larry Felton Johnson Says:

    I’ve raised this, both here and privately with Koretzky and a couple of other SPJ officers, but I’m going to make one last stab at it, then shut up and go away.

    Choosing a finalist that features an event put on by the director of the Kunkel Awards is a glaring conflict of interest. If these awards are going to continue, and are going to be taken seriously beyond the few folks who know they exist now, they need to be run cleanly and ethically. I expect rockiness in a new award, but not choices that make it look like a North Korean heroism award ceremony.

  16. Aidey Says:

    A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.

    If Koretzky is not a Judge and has absolutely no say on what gets nominated, shortlisted or wins and the award does not go to him but to the maker of the video, how can there be a risk that the awards will be unduly influenced?

    Another thing is Koretzky was an impartial moderator at the event. He took no side and wasn’t involved in making the video that was nominated. You on the other hand are clearly biased and have falsely accused other videos that you see as being pro gamergate of things that you could then not back up with evidence or examples.

    In another comment I said you either remembered the video wrong or were dishonest. I think its clear now which one it was.

  17. Larry Felton Johnson Says:

    My dissatisfaction with the number of categories wasn’t the raw number. You could have used only one category (feature writing, for instance) and it would have been okay as long as entries were really feature articles, and not a mix of various types of writing.

    It’s hard to compare a feature article to an investigative piece, or an opinion article. Yet the finalists for feature writing were a mix of those types of journalism.

    I’d suggest going through a representative mix of video-game sites, determining what sort of writing is typical for those sites, and deriving a list of categories from what video-game sites are actually publishing.

    My intuitive guess is reviews would top the list, followed by features, opinion pieces, hard news (which would mostly be product releases and industry news), with investigative journalism and explanatory journalism tied for last place.

    That’s six categories there, and if you split it into written/video, 12.

    If that’s too much for the available judges to handle, eliminate the weakest categories. But don’t pretend that an investigative expose is a feature piece. Keep the categories accurately defined.

  18. itsnotmyfault Says:

    I had a bit of trouble understanding the categories, but it could be laziness when reading them? I’m pretty sure the Adrian Chmielarz piece was a “feature”, but was miscategorized as “news”. I’m curious if the judges also re-categorized contestants as they went through them, but I doubt it.

    One of the biggest problems with the games media is that almost everything that isn’t basically a copy-paste of a press release is fairly … opinionated? Basically, the writer’s personality is too clear in everything. It’s like reading blogs, rather than reading papers. I’m sure the judges are a little too familiar with that now. I propose a new category that could possibly serve as a “containment” category: Best Games Blog. A giant dumpster to put all the poorly sourced, but interesting/provocative pieces. It is a very bad suggestion that I hope you don’t take, and instead make it simpler to understand the difference between “news” and “feature”.

    To make my point more clear: the Adrian Chmielarz piece spawned as a personal response to a single tweet and was backed host of thoughts the author was kicking around while considering GamerGate and his own gaming/games. The overall effect was news: it was an “in-depth (studying a topic by surveying all sides)” about Women and Video Games. However, the way it was formed was more like a feature. It’s a two-part article that has a bit of a back-and-forth with the other Twitter user (more parts if you count the other person’s responses). Not to mention that it felt more like a color piece: It seemed like Chmielarz’s goal was to put the reader in his shoes and explain the reasons why Chmielarz feels the way he does about the subject as a whole, but in the context of the surrounding twitter-fight. A personal moment backed by plenty of explanation.

    In other words: blogging done right.

    I don’t know enough about news to know if there’s a better word for it.

    Moving on to my next complaint/suggestion:

    There are some outlets I trust because they are pretty much JUST press releases. With what seems like a minimum of personal opinions, they publish release dates, trailer releases, rumors of future releases, and “what you can expect from this game” sort of pieces. They don’t deserve an award for anything amazing, but they do deserve an award for consistency.

    The best example I can think of is http://www.siliconera.com/. They’re heavily focused on Japanese games. In addition to information about games releases for Western audiences (it seems focused on the American Audience), they also publish international release dates for tons of games that have no Western marketing. Only months or years later, when the game is finally set to be translated for international release will other outlets finally provide information, but by then Siliconera has beaten everyone else to the punch by… months or years. However, given the way they write their pieces, they’d definitely never come away with any of this year’s Kunkels.

    So, I have another absolutely horrid suggestion: An award for News Localizations.

    Sites like SourceGaming and Siliconera work to bridge the gap between Western and Japanese Audiences. It’s a valuable service, but that value isn’t reflected in the current system which seems to reward the original creations/reporting. Operation Rainfall could also be put on the list as one of the “top dogs” of this niche. Where’s the love?

  19. Thomas Bleed, PHD Says:

    First of all, the awards received absolutely zero coverage or publicity of any kind. They came and went without a sound, and I doubt even the people who got the awards realized what happened until well after it was over. How can these awards promote and reward good journalism if nobody knows they even exist?

    Secondly, a Gawker affiliate should never receive a journalism award of any kind. Kotaku is a repeat offender when it comes to ethics violations, cronyism, nepotism, bad writing, hit pieces, quote mining, undisclosed product promotion, flagrant disregard for facts and leaking private info that isn’t even newsworthy. As a Gawker site, this is par for the course, but it should not be acceptable for the SPJ.

    Kotaku is not a news site, it is tabloid. Just because it occasionally prints an adequate article once in a blue moon does not make up for the site-wide corruption and unprofessional nonsense it produces every hour of every day. Kotaku should not be eligible for any kind of award relating to journalism and it was an extreme disappointment that the second thing I ever heard about these awards is that Kotaku won several.

    This is absolutely unacceptable and if you want gamers to appreciate these awards and take them seriously, you’re going to have to refuse to ever award Kotaku anything. Because you can’t have a business ethics contest and hand out awards to the Chicago Outfit just because an underboss disclosed his tax statements.

  20. GGBigRedDaddy Says:

    I appreciate the awards more because they are merit based, every journalist has an opportunity to do better and get recognition for it.

  21. Thomas Bleed, PHD Says:

    The fact that you’re actively working for and associating with a company that exemplifies everything wrong with journalism should definitely be taken into account when discussing the merits of your article.

  22. YOUR PROM DATE Says:

    Giving any Gawker affiliate an award for best journalism is like giving John Wayne Gacey a man of the year award for not stabbing someone he passed in the grocery store. I understand you were trying to go for a blind eye and objective quality, but by doing so you actively chose the worst possible examples of journalism.

    I don’t think that was the best way to go about doing this, and I am, I think, justifiably mad about those choices. I won’t get into Jim Sterling’s nomination, but that’s another show of the worst possible example


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