Michael Koretzky | August 17, 2015
AirPlay is over, and I’m ambivalent.
I mean that in the classic sense of the word: I have strong emotions both ways, not zero emotions either way.
What SPJ does next depends on which AirPlay panel – the morning or the afternoon – represents what most GamerGaters believe.
An illuminating morning
You know a debate kicks ass when the panelists on all sides tell you, “I learned a lot up there.”
I heard words like that from all six in the morning: Derek Smart representing game developers, Ren LaForme and Lynn Walsh representing mainstream journalism, and Allum Bokhari, Mark Ceb, and Ashe Schow representing GamerGate.
Our goal was to “make a good gaming press better, or a bad gaming press good, depending on your outlook.” We concocted some novel yet practical ideas for achieving that – from creating an SPJ award for games journalism to recruiting a games media critic.
It wasn’t even a “debate.” Along with an audience of both gamers and reporters, it was a collaboration. No side “won,” because everyone won.
A strong-arm afternoon
Before lunch ended, the second group of GamerGate panelists met onstage for a sound check in front of a trickling-in audience.
It went wrong before the red light even came on.
Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Hoff Sommers announced they had a six-minute presentation. That certainly wasn’t what we discussed on a Google Hangout and via email in the weeks leading up to AirPlay.
I looked to the panelists sitting opposite them, and SPJ’s Lynn Walsh politely said, “Six minutes is a long time…”
Yiannopoulos insisted he and Hoff Sommers had a half-dozen points to make, so I negotiated a compromise: Instead of running through all six, why not stop after each one and allow other panelists to comment?
At first, I let it go. But then I began interrupting, trying new angles to get them to talk with the other panelists and not at them.
They stuck to their speeches, which were bloody slabs of red meat to GamerGaters but ladles of spam hash to the journalists in the room. At one point, I asked Lynn Walsh what she understood from these speeches, and she struggled to latch onto anything.
Yiannopoulos talked about the “pearl-clutching, hand-wringing, middle-class white guilt about whether or not there are enough women” in the San Francisco startup industry and wanted to comment on “six big ethical failures, transgressions, betrayals from the games press” – even though AirPlay had nothing to do with the former and had already debated the latter.
(That said, Yiannopoulos is an intoxicating speaker. While he was monopolizing the panel, my mind wandered: What if I hosted a feminism-and-media debate with these three on one side? I would totally do that.)
As #shutupkoretzky appeared on Twitter, the audience yelled for me to let the GamerGate panelists talk unchallenged. I reminded them what I had said earlier that day and for the past three months: While AirPlay is about GamerGate, it’s not for GamerGate. It’s for journalists and their readers.
When a bomb threat forced us to evacuate, it was a mercy killing.
Both debates revealed the duality of GamerGate: an honest desire to improve the news they consume, and a take-no-prisoners damn-the-torpedoes word dumping that glazes corneas instead of winning allies.
The first GamerGate seems ready to give some to get more. The other GamerGate seems willing to estrange everyone who doesn’t agree with them on everything.
I don’t have a horse in this race either way. But only one GamerGate is worthy of apres-AirPlay effort from mainstream journalists.
What happens next
In exactly a month, SPJ holds its annual convention, called Excellence in Journalism. (Yes, the name is joke fodder for media haters. We have a sense of humor, too, you know.)
The SPJ national board will meet twice, and I’m thinking twice about mentioning AirPlay.
If I attempt AirPlay’s ideas, will I be investing my time or wasting it? Is it better spent elsewhere?
For instance, over the Labor Day holiday just a few weeks from now, 20 journalists will fly to Orlando – from as far away as Alaska – and spend 36 hours in a homeless shelter, where they’ll take over its street newspaper for one sleepless issue. We call it Will Write For Food, and this is our seventh twisted year.
If you think gamers are snidely stereotyped by mainstream culture, talk to the homeless. Most gamers aren’t sexist serial harassers who live with their parents. Most homeless aren’t lazy scammers who cackle because they guilted you into giving them a dollar for malt liquor. The world is more complicated than that. Thank God.
Today, I fly to Indiana, where I spend a week training student journalists at DePauw University. I look forward to that almost as much as I looked forward to AirPlay. When I return, AirPlay will be a memory, and I’ll decide what to do.
Of course, I’m not God’s gift to journalism, so maybe someone smarter picks up where AirPlay dropped off. If so, I’ll help. If not, well, it was all still worth every warped moment. I almost literally had a blast.