April 27 through May 1 was ethics week. It was a time for the Society of Professional Journalists to celebrate and discuss its code of ethics. Members of the SPJ used the hashtag #SPJEthicsWeek to tweet about the topic. No doubt many were surprised that GamerGate supporters flooded the hashtag to point out the many instances of corruption and unethical conduct by games journalists. Unfortunately, members of the SPJ decided to withdraw from the hashtag in fear of Gamergate. A few trolls decided to flood the hashtag with violent comments and this, combined with the negative media coverage of GamerGate, lead some SPJ leaders to believe their organization and members were in danger.
Michael Koretzky, a board member of the SPJ, decided to ignore the warnings from his fellow SPJ leaders that told him not to talk to or engage GamerGate in any way. He wrote up a blog post detailing numerous reasons why the SPJ should engage GamerGate and discuss the issue. As he pointed out, its in the SPJ code of ethics to avoid stereotyping. It simply isn’t fair to write off thousands of people because of a dozen or so trolls. Koretzky admits he doesn’t know how many people in GamerGate are actually concerned about ethics and how many are trolls and harassers, but he is willing to investigate rather than jump to conclusions.
Near the end of the blog post he hit on another key point, that despite any claims of harassment leveled against GamerGate supporters, they ultimately do have a point: games journalism does suck. Video games are a $21 billion industry and are more popular than Hollywood. Video games are expensive to develop and to purchase. With all that money on the line, gamers expect a higher standard of professionalism and ethical conduct than they might have in the past. The current crop of games journalists have largely failed to meet those standards.
Koretzky announced in another post that because of his position in the SPJ, he is in charge of organizing an annual journalism conference in his region, which will be held in Miami Florida on August 15. He announced there will be a discussion called Airplay, which will delve deeper into GameGate. It will include a debate between GamerGate supporters and those who oppose GamerGate. Details were scarce at first, and updates are being posted every few days as the details are being worked out. He is hoping to have Airplay completely planned out by June 1.
In the latest update, more details have been given about the format of the debate. The debate will begin with a one hour period where both sides lay out their main points. The purpose is not to convince the audience who is right or wrong, but to convince them the issue is important to discuss. This will be followed by a one hour period where both sides will delve deeper into their point. After a lunch break, there will be a 2 hour period which will have a more “hardcore warfare” between the two sides. This section will encourage more audience participation than the previous sections. After this, there will then be a 2 hour period for anyone who wants to remain to talk among themselves, but the camera crew will be packing up at this time, and the main debate is essentially over.
While attendance of the conference costs between $15 and $50, it will be completely free for those who are only attending Airplay. The debate will be livestreamed at multiple sites. If one of the streams is hacked, Koretzky will direct viewers to where they can view another one. The footage will be archived and free to use for any purpose.
What has caused the most discussion within GamerGate over this, is deciding who will represent GamerGate. Koretzky is trying to create a committee of 3 to 5 people to represent GamerGate. Based on what he’s written, it seems that this committee is not actually going to be the group of people participating in the debate, but they will advise him on the planning of the debate and will pick the speakers. Koretzky has read through discussions of this on the many GamerGate forums and subreddits to decide who should be in the committee. He stated there will be more details about this committee on Tuesday.
This is a major opportunity for GamerGate supporters. While most of the large gaming sites and even gaming conventions have shut out any positive opinion about GamerGate, this SPJ conference will give them a chance to have their say. This could be the largest platform so far to give GamerGate a fair hearing.
Do you think this conference will change the public perception of GamerGate? Leave your comments below.