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Can't Talk | October 20, 2019

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Can’t Talk Podcast Episode 86: Hoisted By Your Own Canard

Can’t Talk Podcast Episode 86: Hoisted By Your Own Canard
Can't Talk Staff


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On this week’s Can’t Talk Podcast, Actual Journalist, and all around cool person Ness joins us to discuss something really important: ethics in journalism. We talk about what it really means to be an ethical journalist, and what might be important for those who are writing about video games to consider.

As was probably expected, we also talk about Dragon Age a lot.
Ness does not recommend: Romancing Cullen. “Macklemancing,” as it were.
Bell recommends: Analogue: A Hate Story
Amelia recommends though finds over the top: Cunt by Inga Muscio
Also Mentioned:
(image: Dragon Age II, property of Bioware and EA Games)
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  1. Cody

    It’s a whole interesting thing where we give too much value to ideas that are demonstrably unequal. Which feels like a contradiction because we live in an age where information has never been more accessible. Not only can we look up the facts regarding an issue, but if we don’t understand the language, we can access dictionaries. If that still doesn’t make sense, there’s websites dedicated to simplifying things and explaining them in plainer language. Yet it’s commonly presented that all ideas are coloured by the subjective experiences of the individual, therefore no ideas can be wrong. That ethical values such as truth, accuracy, and even decency, are given backseat to values such as freedom of expression and “balance”.

    Not to suggest that balance is not an important ethical consideration, but consider that balance has different meanings if you treat all ideas as equal, or treat some ideas as unequal. There’s definitely a tendency of people who are wrong to treat ideas as equal because it’s the laziest, easiest, way to give legitimacy to ideas that are wrong. Climate change has scientific consensus on side, yet climate change deniers are given equal air time in the name of “balanced” debate. The exact same thing has happened with the anti-vaccination movement.

    Even LGBTQ+ rights are still up for debate because legitimacy is given to people who are demonstrably wrong. Most of the social priveleges that are being asked for are wholly abstract. People who are against equality are fundamentally complaining about reform that takes nothing tangible from them to improve the well being of others. Balanced journalism should recognise that there’s no weight to their ideas and should not be giving them a voice.

    The other thing I have considerable beef with is there’s less weight given to accountability. I love living in an age where anyone can say anything and find an audience for it. Electronic media fundamentally has fewer gate-keepers than print media and that is genuinely the greatest thing about it. But it does seem to create this problem where loudness is equated with accountability. For that one dubious ethics movement, a lot of it’s constituents seem like people who got swept up in how loud it got. They heard the spin and decided to take a stand for it, when actually most of that spin is coming from hundreds of anonymous screaming people with some vicious agendas to push.

    The fact is that someone who maintains anonymity has no stake in their reputation or accountability. These are the people who we need to be most critical and suspicious of. Like Ness was saying, a few published off-record comments was enough to tarnish a paper for years. People are given too much leway to do and say shitty things under the guise of anonymity, and their opinions are given to much weight and credibility by those who don’t want their ideas to be challenged. Which would be slightly less of an issue if it wasn’t white supremacists and red pillers looking to recruit from embittered gamers.

    … This turned into way too many words. Sorry about that.

  2. Ness

    Cody, these were some seriously excellent points.

    I have a huge problem with laymen, amateurs and professional journalists alike who (mistakenly, in my opinion) equate objectivity or providing nuanced coverage of a delicate issue with giving airtime to people with demonstrably bad ideas (like coverage of LGBTQ+ issues, as you pointed out). That is not good journalism. We had a story recently in my newspaper about an offshoot of the KKK spreading racist propaganda at the homes of African-Americans and Latinos. It would have been tremendously inappropriate to call up the people disseminating what was arguably hate speech and giving them a platform in a newspaper, which then confers legitimacy for what they’re saying. We did have a discussion of how much of what was in the materials we should publish, but ultimately went with describing what was said without quoting it directly. It was vile. Others (TV stations, mostly) made a different choice on both subjects—which I think was wrong and unethical and did unnecessary harm to those who had already been hurt. There was no news value in printing the hate speech versus just describing it as “racial slurs.” (In my opinion, obviously. Those who made the call at the TV stations felt differently, clearly.)

    Accountability is another huge issue. My face and that of my publisher are in the paper every week in our columns. Our names are in paper every day. My reporters’ names are on their stories—as is their contact information. We run letters to the editor of local residents who disagree with our view. People can stop by the office, phone us, email us, tweet us, find us on Facebook. We’re highly visible. I also read every story that goes in the paper. If I have qualms, my editor can read them, too. We also have page designers and proofers who check over the copy again. No one can get something in the newspaper without it having been vetted first. That is not the case in online outlets.

    Basically, all this to say I agree with you 100 percent.

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