Why I Don’t Think I’ll Ever Be A ‘Proper Journalist’

I like to think that I’m fairly competent at what I do with this blog. This was only ever meant to be a bit of fun for me, a way to share my passion and opinions of games and films… Sometimes TV and other subjects too. When I started Little Bits of Gaming, I only ever wanted to do small, easy to read posts. But I began to get into larger retrospectives, histories, editorials, etc and the smaller articles just stopped as the more in-depth ones took over. My skill and confidence as a writer grew and I began writing bigger and richer articles, I moved onto writing books and much more. It even got to a point where I even considered getting into ‘proper journalism’.

I spend several months last year looking into and applying for real writing jobs for various big-name sites that cover similar subjects that I do here and a few random and general writing jobs too. I’m not going to name those sites, but if you’re into gaming and film news, then you’d be more than familiar with several of the sites I looked into and even applied for jobs with a few places. I just really wanted to get into writing on a professional level In fact, several years back now, I used to write ‘professionally’ for Movie Pilot and their sister site, Now Loading as one of their paid creators. I had to go through a whole host of ‘lessons’ to pass thier writing academy and become one of their verified creators (as they called us) and bring in some side cash as well as learn a lot more about writing on a professional level.

Anyway, I’ve always believed that outside of this blog that I could easily do this writing thing for real and be a ‘proper journalist’. I genuinely enjoy writing, I like to think I’m pretty decent at it too. So, that’s why I spent a chunck of last year trying to get into this writing thing proper. It was the midst of the first covid lockdown here in England over last summer. I wasn’t doing my day job as my workplace had to close in accordance to the covid restrictions at the time. I had been dealing with anxiety and depression for a while at the time too, even before the lockdown. It was all work-related and being in that first lockdown really made me realise how much my day job was affecting my mental health. Long story short, I ended up quitting my job in the midst of mass unemployment due to the whole coronavirus thing, with many businesses closing for good.

After I quit my job, I began to feel better about myself. The anxiety and depression are both still there, but just nowhere near as badly as before and I’m managing my mental health far better than ever. As I write this now, I still don’t have a job, I’m unemployed I guess. But, my partner returned to work at the start of this year after being off for a year following the birth of our son at the end of 2019. With my better half in employment and earning well, we made the decision that I’d be a stay at home father for a while, instead of going back to work, as it saves us a fortune in childcare. Plus, I get plenty of time to do a spot of writing too. Oh, and spend a lot of time with my two kids.

Two days a week and my little monsters are in nursery. That’s two days that I have to myself and can write. I’ve never had that much free time to write before and I’m loving it. Before, when I was working full-time, I could only write after work. And my job had me working unsociable hours too. Late finishes, working weekends and holidays, etc. On top of having one, then two small children to care for too. As a result, I could only write for around four to six hours a week, if I was lucky. So, with all this newly found spare time as a stay at home father, I thought I’d explore writing as a job. As I said, I did look into and apply to a few notable sites… And it seriously began to depress me. I wish I had screen-grabbed some images of the expectations from some of these sites. I mean eight to ten articles a day… A DAY! That’s what one of the sites I looked into were expecting from a content writer.

I tend to do around three to four articles a month on this blog on average, and I feel that’s plenty of content. I actually spend time on my articles though. I research and fact-check as best as I can. Something that a lot of modern journalists just don’t seem to do anymore. For most, if not all, of these entertainment websites, it’s all about quantity over quality. Often I find myself reading badly researched and written content from (what are supposed to be) respected sites written by ‘professional journalists’, that are really generally just lazy copy & paste jobs. Big named websites churning out shit as fast as they can and screw the quality of the content itself, as long as there’s lots of it. I know I can produce far superior content for most of these sites, but they’re just not interested. It’s all about suffocating people with as much crap as possible, while the quality of the content takes a back seat. I just can’t write like that, I can’t fart out endless dreck just to meet an unrealistic quota.

I know why big-name sites do this, it’s all about the clicks and ad revenue. These sites are a business and a business needs money to survive, it’s just a shame it’s that quantity over quality aspect of the business that brings in the most money.

Then there are the editors. From my last experiences writing for Movie Pilot and Now Loading, I learned to loath editors. See, whenever I published something for Movie Pilot, especially if it was a major article that got main coverage (I had several articles published as lead articles when I wrote for them), they would have to pass through an editor before publishing. Most of the time, the editors would completely mess up my work to the point where I asked for my name to be removed. Look, editors are needed, I get that. But the ones I had to work with were clueless imbeciles. I recall one article I wrote where I set up a joke and used a picture as the punchline. I send it off to the editor, a few hours later and it was published. I clicked on the link to read my published work and the editor had moved my picture punchline. The lead in joke was still there, but the punchline was gone. Now, it wasn’t an issue with the picture itself, because it was still used in the article, the editor had just moved it elsewhere and further down. I remember emailing the editor to explain the situation and all I got back was a snippy reply telling me how the image worked better in its new place. Despite the fact it ruined the joke and now made no sense… apparently, it was in a better place… How?

Then there was the time I wrote an article on why Metal Gear Solid V took me over a year to finish. Honestly, the game really kind of bored me and I found it utterly repetitive with having to do the same handful of missions over and over in the same handful of locations. Now, I was very respectful in my (long) article. I admitted to not being a huge MGS fan, but I still respect the franchise for what it is. I made that point very clear in my writing too. Again, I sent the article off to the editor for publication and yes, it made the grade, got published and even given credit as a lead article too, proudly displayed front and centre of the main site. Probably no more than an hour after my MSG V article had been published, my inbox was inundated with alerts to comments made about the article. Honestly, I was getting dozens of them, the biggest response to an article I had ever written for them. So of course, I was curious as to why I was getting such a huge response. I clicked on my article and went straight to the comments section, where I found nothing but personal attacks aimed at me, not my article, me directly. Swearing, threats, insults, you name it and there was a derogatory and personal slur there in the comment section. Now, I’m very thick-skinned and I don’t get offended easily. Call me whatever you want, I’m a grown man, I won’t cry about it. But I began to grow very curious as to just why my perfectly harmless article, where I respectfully explained why it took me over a year to finish MGS V, was attracting people to personally attack me. So I scrolled up from the comments and read my article after going through an editor.

It had been altered to the point where I honestly hardly recognised my own work. Now, the main gist was still there as I explained why the game just never gelled with me, but that respectful nature and tone of my writing was gone. I began to see vitriolic words such as ‘abhor’, ‘detest’ and ‘hate’ in the article, words I never wrote myself. See, I personally think words like ‘hate’ are often over and misused. It’s a strong word that I only use for particularly strong circumstances. Yet, here was my article littered with trigger words put there just to clearly get a certain response. In fact, the article ended with the line (and I quote) ‘If you hate Metal Gear Solid V as much as I do, let me know in the comments below’. A line I never wrote, a line that was clearly saying I hated the game. It had been put there by the editor as a final twist of the knife. Anyway, as I read my now edited article, I began to understand why I was getting such abuse in the comments section. Because the article was altered to be nothing more than a very bitter rant that came across as a mass insult to MGS fans and even Hideo Kojima himself. Which certainly was not the intention of my original scrawling. 

I was fuming, I emailed my editor and demanded the article be reinstated to how I originally wrote it. I was told the editor’s decision is final and it would not be changed. I pointed out the comments section and all the abuse being aimed at me due to how the article came across. They loved it, to them, it was traffic to the site, which meant more clicks, more ad revenue, more money. I was told to just take it on the chin, that sometimes I’d get comments I don’t like, that I should just ignore them. Fuck that, I was getting abuse over an article that had my name on it as I had written it… but one that had been edited to remove my respectful nature and replace it with hate and vitriol. Again, I didn’t care so much about the comments themselves, I could handle them. I was angry, not because I was getting abusive comments, but because my article had been purposely edited to incite those type of comments. My name was attached to a piece of work I didn’t agree with. 

Now, I don’t have anything against editing, it’s a necessity in this writing thing I do. But there are ways and means of doing editing well. I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, not long back and a fellow blogger and friend, Lord Badger Nimahson from Stoffel Presents did a review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League for this blog. I was emailed the review and spotted a few minor gaffs, so I edited it, I also did a little polishing of some of the formatting and overall review. However, the end result was still 99% of Badger’s work and 1% of my editing. I didn’t change the tone or voice of the review, I didn’t add any vitriolic wording just to get a response.

Anyway, back to my Movie Pilot/Now Loading story. I refused to write for them any more. In fact, I asked for my account with them to be deleted and all of my content removed. They said they couldn’t do that, some bollocks about it going against their policy, that they can’t remove content from their paid creators. Of course, the real reason was that they were still making money off my articles every time someone clicked on them and they didn’t want to lose out on any revenue. So, as I still had access to my account with them, I spent two days just uploading articles with nothing but hardcore porn. Porn films, pictures and so on. Bombarded them with so much salacious, very adult content that they were forced to shut my account down. Then about three weeks later Movie Pilot/Now Loading shut down the entire writing department to concentrate on video content. There was a rather in-depth article that uncovered some rather questionable management practices, including accusations of sexual harassment and more at the company. I couldn’t find that article when I looked, but I did find this one about the selling off of the brand and there are a few mentions of mismanagement and the like. So it seems that I was not alone in my distrust of the company.

It’s shit like this that really put me off exploring writing professionally. What’s the point if I have to write ( copy & paste) asinine crap and lots of it, to meet a pathetic quota just to get more clicks? Why should I spend time and effort researching and writing content, just for some wanker of an editor to completely fuck up my work because they only care about getting comments and traffic to the site? That’s not what being a journalist is about. After looking into getting into ‘proper journalism’ last year, I learned that I’m a rather large square peg trying to force my way into a tiny and uncomfortable round hole. It’s just not worth it. My love, respect and passion for writing, my integrity and my moral compass just won’t allow me to go down that route.

I mean, here’s a typical piece of what passes for modern gaming ‘journalism’. An article that looks at a game character’s shoe size. This actually exists as ‘proper journalism’ from a reputable site, this is how low this shit has sunk. Even more so, the article ends with:

“What do you think of Lady Dimitrescu’s shoe size? Are you surprised by all the interest surrounding the tcharacter? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter.”

How about no, fuck off?

This is it folks, this is what passes as journalism these days. This is the kind of very low quality dreck that gets published on well known sites. This is what you get when you hire cluless writers with zero passion for writing and force them to churn out ten articles a day.

I have this very minuscule piece of real estate of a blog, lost on the gargantuan plot of land that is the internet… And I’m happy about that. I can post what I like, when I like, how I like. I mean, do you think some big-name and ‘reputable’ media site would allow me to write a lengthy rant about how shit modern journalism is now?

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