During SXSW there were two panels hosted in relation to the ongoing scandal known as #GamerGate. One panel focused on online harassment against women called the Online Harassment Summit. The second panel was called SavePoint, it focused on ethics in journalism. Recently a tech journalist named Dave Lee who writes for the British Broadcasting Corporation headed over to Kotaku In Action on Reddit to partake in an AMA and answer some questions about the BBC News and mainstream media’s coverage of the #GamerGate scandal.
Lee prefaces the “Ask Me Anything” by stating that he’s bound by impartiality standards by the BBC and can’t be baited into answering questions that might jeopardize the integrity of the broadcasting station, nor could he speak on behalf of other journalists at the BBC who wrote or produced content about #GamerGate for the broadcasting corporation. However, that didn’t stop Lee from reiterating talking points that have been leveled at #GamerGate for the past year-and-a-half while conveniently ignoring all of the documented corruption that has been uncovered within that time span as well.
Lee decided to partake in the AMA following his attendance at both #GamerGate panels at SXSW. He mentions in the AMA preface that he wrote about the Online Harassment Summit but not the SavePoint panel, writing…
“I’m the reporter that was at both the Online Harassment Summit and the Savepoint panel at SXSW this week. I reported on the OHS here: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35752657 . I didn’t file a story on Savepoint – and I’m happy to go into the reasons why if that happens to be a question.”
Lee explains later on in the AMA thread why he did a report on the Online Harassment Summit but not SavePoint, writing…
“Reporting on online abuse – as I have done – isn’t me taking sides. Nor is quoting people that have spoken at an event. I realise reporters can be biased via omission, but sometimes I feel that quoting someone is too often seen as agreeing with them.
“The reason why the online harassment summit story was a story was because of the players involved. I’m not talking Brianna, Randi or whoever. I’m talking Facebook’s head of product. I’m talking Google’s lead counsel. Politicians. And so on. That makes it a story.“
The thing is, Lee is being biased by omission of facts and pertinent information. If you check through Lee’s stories covering #GamerGate you’ll note that he hasn’t published one single story about any of the conflicts of interest or corruption charges that have surfaced over the past year and a half. In fact, no one at the BBC has written about the corruption or conflicts of interest within the gaming media. If you check the #GamerGate search term on the BBC, the only stories they’ve written about deal with harassment.
Now, unlike the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or the American Broadcasting Corporation, Lee did not say that he wouldn’t cover the corruption angles. In fact, Lee states the opposite, noting that corruption is story-worthy, writing in the AMA thread…
“ Corruption is always a story! Proving it is the tricky part. It’s one thing to come onto Reddit with something you’ve “found out” … but risk going to jail/being sued if you get something drastically wrong? That’s slightly different!”
There’s nothing “drastically wrong” with the factually sourced cases of corruption within the media industry that #GamerGate have uncovered. In fact, in the very AMA thread various individuals linked to Deepfreeze.it, which has chronicled a number of conflicts of interest involving romantic and financial ties between developers and journalists. These claims of corruption aren’t just hearsay either, there are images, testimony, quotes and direct comments from the individuals involved to prove they exist.
In fact, cases like the one involving intimate relations between an Electronic Arts employee and an AusGamers editor was admitted to by one of the editors. In the case of PC Gamer, the executive editor was involved intimately with a communications specialists from Ubisoft while covering their games… the appearance of a conflict of interest was undeniable and irrefutable. PC Gamer later apologized for the COI and modified their ethics policies regarding coverage of titles by employees intimately involved with the person they’re covering.
Those are just a couple of many cases involving conflicts of interest between developers and journalists. There were also more serious charges, such as former IGF chairman Brandon Boyer and the possible profiteering scheme involving the IGF contest, which is illegal in the state of California where it’s held. The IGF case was covered extensively by ShortFatOtaku and Camera Lady, with multiple videos covering what appeared to be clear and definitive conflicts of interest between Boyer and some of the contestants of the IGF. None of the major media outlets picked up on this story, despite Boyer staying silent the whole time while the allegations were being made public.
In mid 2015 Boyer eventually resigned from his position as chairman of the IGF; but to this day no major media outlets will look into the claims of corruption surrounding the IGF.
When the KIA members brought up some of these cases of corruption, Lee opted not to respond to them or address why they’ve never been covered by the BBC.
He also states that it was difficult finding the right people to contact to do a #GamerGate story, even though prominent individuals like Christina Hoff Sommers, Adam Baldwin, MundaneMatt, Sargon of Akkad and Oliver Campbell were easily recognizable and equally easy to contact for quotes or interviews, as evidenced by the amount of interviews that each of them have given to various outlets over the past year and a half. Lee opted to state that it was just easier getting in contact with the “anti-GG” side.
When asked how Lee and others make sure the reports on the harassment isn’t fabricated or blown out of proportion, Lee responded with the following statement…
“That’s a good question – and relies on a mixture of things, such as demonstrable facts, reporter judgment and legality of the claim. I’ll give you an example — Zoe Quinn’s story was worth being told as it had clear grounding in fact. A court case, that online ‘dossier’ or whatever you’d call it, and, from my own judgment, the day I met Zoe I met someone who was clearly shaken by how rapidly her life was changing.”
The thing is, Lee’s own report on Quinn was not grounded in fact. In his interview with Zoe Quinn that was published on the BBC on October 29th, 2014, Lee stated that Quinn was “forced to leave her home after receiving death threats” even though she left her home to take a vacation trip to Europe, as admitted to by Quinn’s own tweets. Additionally, Lee wrote…
[The Zoe Post] included an accusation that Ms Quinn had had a relationship with a journalist at prominent games site Kotaku in an attempt to get positive reviews for her game, Depression Quest.
“The allegation proved untrue – but the debate continued, and is now approaching its third month.”
This in itself is a falsehood that Lee has never corrected for the past year and a half. Nathan Grayson did write positively about Zoe Quinn in several articles and had a financial tie with Quinn, all of which went undisclosed in his news pieces. This isn’t mentioned anywhere in any of Lee’s pieces about #GamerGate.
Interestingly enough, what Lee wrote about regarding Grayson and Quinn in his article easily contradicts what he states in the AMA thread, where he acknowledges that conflicts of interests like the one Grayson and Quinn were involved in should see the writer recusing themselves from writing about the subject…
“I had a relationship with a person working in (non gaming) public relations recently and I just passed on stories involving her clients. Also – you’ll never see me write about Dyson, my brother works in their marketing department.
“[…] if the circumstance was a developer paying a journalist for coverage, well that’s obviously unethical, yes.”
There are sites like TouchArcade and Pocket Gamer where studios do pay them for coverage. According to Lee’s own standards this kind of thing would be worth covering, but you haven’t seen a thing about those issues published by Lee. Instead, you will find plenty of topics surrounding online harassment from the tech writer.
Lee also goes on to further defend why the BBC and the other mainstream media won’t cover the corruption angle or give any coverage to what’s colloquially referred to as “Pro-Gamergate”, writing…
“A quick point on the “other side” getting more coverage. Like it or not, they are doing tangible things – talking to the UN, getting around the table with the networks etc. I know you disagree with the platform they have – but these are real events that a journalist can report on. If GG is keen for more coverage, the best way to do that would be to have a solid action plan that goes beyond calling for advertisers to pull out of backing sites and minor battles with individuals based on an errant tweet or two.”
Lee conveniently ignores the #GamerGate funded SPJ AirPlay event that took place in August of 2015. The event was cut short due to bomb threats. Only a few scattered websites reported on the event, but it was all conveniently ignored by mainstream outlets like the BBC, CBC, MSNBC and even Kotaku. To their credit, Polygon actually did report on SPJ AirPlay shutting down early, much to the dismay and surprise of the gaming audience.
SPJ AirPlay organizer Michael Koretzky actually dedicated a blog post to the lack of media coverage that AirPlay received, despite the bomb threats shutting down everything early [Disclosure: I was a member of the committee who helped organize AirPlay].
#GamerGate has also carried out a number of meet-ups around the globe, including a meet-up that was also disrupted by a bomb threat, which the mainstream media also conveniently chose not to report on. There’s a detailed recount of the DC bomb threat issued against the #GamerGate meet-up by Reason.com.
So what was Dave Lee covering in the middle of August, 2015 when AirPlay was taking place? Well, he wrote about clues about an Apple test car on August 15th, 2015. He wrote a round-up of news that took place over the weekend on August 17th, 2015 that did not include any mention of SPJ AirPlay at all… not even in a round-up of news. On August 18th, 2015 Lee wrote about the modular Ara phone being delayed by Google, and on August 24th, 2015 he does another round-up that also doesn’t bother to mention AirPlay at all.
So the reality is that even when #GamerGate was involved in an actual, significant event that was newsworthy the mainstream media still didn’t cover it. And terrorist threats on U.S., soil are usually the sort of thing that garners coverage from most outlets. In fact, the BBC reported on culture critic Anita Sarkeesian receiving a “massacre style” threat from an anonymous individual and how she had to shutdown her speech at the Utah State University back on October 14th, 2015.
One person in the Reddit thread actually asked Lee if he would have filed a SavePoint article if it was shutdown due to a bomb threat, but Lee opted not to answer the question. Someone also asked about why no one did a follow-up on one of Anita Sarkeesian’s harassers being tracked down by #GamerGate’s Harassment Patrol and why none of the media asked her why she didn’t press charges against the harasser. Lee simply responds by saying that he didn’t ask her about it… in fact, none of the media have asked her why she hasn’t been proactive against her harasser after #GamerGate tracked him down and gave her all the necessary info to press charges.
Lee also tries to defend why the media has opted not to tell any other side of #GamerGate beyond harassment, stating that the “anti-GG” narrative is just a less complex story to tell, writing…
“For any reporter – particularly one working in TV – there is a tendency to look for the simple, straightforward story. It’s definitely an issue. This is a problem that reaches well beyond Gamergate of course, and so I’d wager that ‘anti-gg narrative’ could more accurately be described as an ‘anti-complexity narrative’ in news, particularly TV. It’s the inherent weakness of the format.”
According to Lunar Archivist, the CBC has spent an estimated 1 hour and 5 minutes on #GamerGate collectively in their coverage without even mentioning the corruption, conflicts of interest or ethical violations uncovered.
The excuse of complexity and time goes out the window when a topic is covered over the course of a dozen pieces and media programs that cumulatively add up to more than an hour worth of programming and the outlet continues to omit the facts because a CBC director believes…
“Balance does not, for instance, mean that every voice critical of GamerGate must be immediately juxtaposed with an equally strong voice supporting GamerGate.”
That’s not to mention that Breitbart had no issues reporting on the Game Journo Pros, putting together a quick article highlighting the secret group’s organization and function. It’s the same as The Atlantic or Real Clear Politics writing about the original JournoList and the new JournoList. The only reason not to cover it is either because it disrupts the narrative the media organization is trying to push, it exposes colleagues the organization (or journalists) are trying to protect, or the journalists are just lazy and incompetent.
When asked about the lack of coverage of the Game Journo Pros, Lee conveniently ignores the question and doesn’t address it. This is despite Lee claiming that #GamerGate has “over the top conspiracies”… conspiracies that he conveniently failed to expound upon in the AMA. [Correction: Some users have stated that Lee clarified the conspiracy theories in a comment where he claims that readers accusing him of payola and readers accusing the BBC of being anti-GG were the conspiracy theories.]
Just recently an article was published here on One Angry Gamer featuring more leaked e-mails from the Game Journo Pros mailing list covering their collusion. Had Lee asked he could have very well been sent a copy… the offer is even still on the table.
Lee, however, has no interest in the secret group, the e-mails, the corruption or the collusion documented on sites like DeepFreeze.it. It’s an easy story to tell just by printing the facts, something even Destructoid managed to do.
But even then, when dealing with “just the facts”… the BBC took the facts from female gamers they interviewed and did a spin on the story, omitting many of their statements to paint them all as damsels in distress while portraying #GamerGate as the typical industry boogeyman. When asked about the BBC misconstruing the voices of female gamers to make them victims of harassment, Lee opted not to respond.
Instead, Lee believes that #GamerGate – beyond the harassment angle – isn’t worth covering when people say mean things to journalists over the internet, writing…
“It’s obvious the majority of people here are intelligent and thoughtful, and yet in this thread alone I’ve been called a “f**king parasite”. My inbox is a lot worse. I’ve got a thick skin, and it’s your right to say what you like about me. It’s the internet, after all. But ask yourself – if you were me, would you willingly engage with that kind of discussion when there’s very little in it for you? Do you think this thread encourages other reporters to engage with GG?”
There are journalists who risk their lives to get interviews with ISIS members despite the fact that the group has threatened to behead Americans… and according to Newsweek they just recently killed a female journalist.
The question is: why are journalists more willing to engage with ISIS — who have actually killed journalists indiscriminately — but not #GamerGate?