In the Utopian Internet Future, Journalists Won’t Have to Worry About Pesky, Outdated Concepts Like Sexual Harassment

Sure, the NYTs and WSJs of the world are nearly extinct dinosaurs that lack the kind of hip, in-your-face journalism that the kids of today want to read.  And, yeah, they hire people like David Brooks and Michael Pollan who “play it safe” rather than publish edgy, cutting edge, other-phrases-with-the-word-edge-in-them young writers.

You know what else they don’t do?  Publish the works of “journalists” who instant-message women they’re interviewing for research to ask them if they “need a penis for anything in the [near] future.”

As reported on the website Kotaku yesterday, established gaming “journalist” Josh Mattingly went above and way, way, beyond in his attempts to do an off-the-record interview with a female game developer.  Mattingly is, I gather, rather well known in the gaming part of the internet, as is his website IndieStatik.  It should also be noted that Mattingly does not have a personal relationship with the woman he messaged.

The texts went public when a friend of the harassed developer went on Twitter and published a screenshot of them.  (And the internet gaming community being the internet gaming community, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the tweet was followed by a long line of tweets from men saying it was the woman’s fault for leading him on.)

In all fairness, it should be noted that this gaming “journalist” did promise to be “gentle,” assuring his interviewee that he was well aware of just how many nerve endings a clitoris has.  Also, Mattingly has since issued a full apology, noting that rather than feeling disrespect towards his subject, he actually finds her a “positive ray of sunshine.”  Plus his brother died a year ago.  Also, he was drunk.

If you want to read about the waves of outrage, by the way, you’ll want to stay clear of the gaming community websites. I googled around for a while, but could hardly find find anyone willing to condemn his utter lack of professionalism.  (I know, I know — “professionalism” is so print-media!)  Even the Kotaku piece doesn’t have anything particularly negative to say about the guy’s actions.

The internet gaming community has seen fit, however, to give Mattingly over $50,000 on Kickstarter to continue his hip, trendy new style of journalism.

 

(H/T to reader Jessica for forwarding the Kotaku piece.)

 

Follow Tod on Twitter, view his archive, or email him. Visit him at TodKelly.com

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46 thoughts on “In the Utopian Internet Future, Journalists Won’t Have to Worry About Pesky, Outdated Concepts Like Sexual Harassment

  1. The internet gaming community has seen fit, however, to give Mattingly over $50,000 on Kickstarter to continue his hip, trendy new style of journalism.

    Jesus Christ.

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  2. My reaction to your post wasn’t surprise at what Mattingly did, just skepticism that traditional news outlets are any better. Not accusing the NYT or WSJ of anything in particular – just my gut impression that if you want to avoid sexual harrassment, traditional media are not the place to go.

    I haven’t dug enough to feel really confident about it, but so far it seems that traditional journalism is too busy enabling the mistreatment of its own female employees to enable the mistreatment of its female interviewees. Here’s an international study from 2013: http://www.newssafety.org/images/INSIIWMFsurvey%20headlines.pdf.

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  3. I’ve been lectured in the leftier than thou circles of Lawyers, Guns, and Money for considering the New York Times to be a good paper. They get a lot of rage at the their various style pieces and I find this rage perplexing. It is taking a light section of the paper way too seriously and many people seem to do it. The other swipe against the NY Times is that they are often merely stenographers instead of reporters.

    Whatever. I still think the NY Times does the best shoe-leather reporting in the country.

    More on point, I still think there are large sections of the internet especially more fannish sections like gaming that want it to be a boys-only clubhouse and will use this kind of stuff to push women out. When I read articles from female journalists about how the kind of harassment they get, I think maybe we should have the end of Men.

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    • The NYT didn’t exactly distinguish itself as more then stenographers in the run up to Iraq. They used to be a great paper but i think they have declined quite a bit in the last couple decades. While their Style pieces are meant to be light, they reinforce the notion that the paper in general exists in a richy rich bubble much like the WaPo.

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      • I think their investigative journalism especially on healthcare and the fairly recent story on child homelessness were top notch. Can you name a paper or media source that does better reporting than the Times?

        People are getting trolled by the Times way too seriously and I think the Times knows it. They are a great paper but people seem to want perfection. I am defining perfection by “How dare they publish something that I disagree with” The average Times reader is probably an upper-middle class professional in the NYC-Metro area and other major cities. The Styles section confirms to the tastes of those people. They have introduced gaming to their arts coverage in the past few years.

        What do people expect from a section of the paper called Styles? Getting ragey at a parenting trend piece is fairly weak tea in my book. I usually just eyeroll.

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      • Yeah their Styles section conforms to the people who read the paper. I don’t think people see that as the problem. If there is a problem its that they can’t see how the rest of the country lives since they are in a rich to upper middle class ( liberal and conservative) bubble. They became the “paper of record” with a national influence. Well that comes at a price, part of which his seeing beyond their own neighborhood.

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      • The knock I keep seeing on the Times is “They claim to be the paper of record, but their biases keep slipping through. At least the Murdoch papers are honest about being right-wing rags.” I find this logically unsatisfying.

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      • greg, the New York Times cover the inequality beat and beyond the upper middle class lifestyle more than any other traditional news organization in America. They might not speak in terms that the left blogosphere supports but I can find at least a few articles about inequality and its toll in every addition of the Times.

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  4. I read Mattingly’s apology and it meets all the elements for being satisfactory. He 1) acknowledges his wrongful conduct, 2) unambiguously accepts blame unto himself, 3) explains himself without dismissing his own behavior, 4) shows awareness of why his actions were unacceptable and the harm he caused, and 5) promises to do better in the future.

    Restitution seems impossible in this situation since he didn’t take, destroy, or physically harm a person or other tangible thing. So when someone does something bad, but later apologizes for it, when does that suffice to resolve the situation?

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    • were I advising him, I’d ask for him to do some “good faith” exercises.

      Make a few articles that use women either as principal sources, or as primary sources among others. This isn’t too hard…

      But it does go a long way towards understanding that it’s not just him that’s been an ass. He’s done it in a cultural climate, and a society, and society is an ass too.

      (Does he need to apologize for society? not in the slightest. But take some action to improve it!)

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    • There is a lot of context here, namely how women are treated in general in geek communities, along with a general lack of accountability for abusive men. The thing is, the story is boringly typical and does not even stand out.

      Well, I guess except he bothered to apologize at all instead of blathering about “free speech” while his shitty fans warm up the rape threat machine. (And I’d hate to see this woman’s inbox today.)

      So anyway, sure, his apology might be fine, but it also signals that a sketch of false contrition and lip service can act as a get-out-of-jail-free card for any shitty abuser that comes along.

      I want people who act this way to start losing stuff. That would be nice.

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      • Yes. And it says something that he knew enough to resign.
        It would be one thing to accept the apology of a beat reporter.
        But this guy? he was in charge. There’s a big difference there —
        you screw up, you set a culture of fuckups are okay.

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  5. Oh dear Jeebus.

    Gotta say that that chick should have shut that dude down on the first comment. Then I thought maybe she was playing along….then I though, the dude is still a douche bag.

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  6. Has the woman to whom these messages were sent said anything publically about this? The messages were leaked by her friend.

    I am curious to know her assessment of the conversation. She seems to be making it quite plain that she’s not interested in taking the conversation to where Mattingly wants it to go. Yet, she never comes out and explicitly puts an end to it. Lots of potential answers as to why, but would love to know more.

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    • Can you cite “leaked by a friend”?
      Also, if it was a good and pleasant convo, she wouldn’t have passed it to her friend.
      (come on, you’re getting a divorce and someone’s flirting with you? Tell A Friend? nahh…)

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      • My work computer won’t open Kotaku, but the article states that the FB message exchange was posted by a woman who is a friend of the woman with whom Mattingly is exchanging messages.

        And yes, we can speculate about what she thought of the conversation, but it would also be nice just to hear her side.

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    • It’s pretty simple. She works for a game developer. If she stops a journalist to stop being an idiot, he stops covering her game.

      This was the online version of a woman at a party dealing with her boss or her companies main customer being overly flirting with her, and just grimly grinning while trying to steer the conversation back to safe topics.

      Of course, at the end of the day, it’s not a great narrative to ask the woman being harassed “how she could’ve handled it better.” There’s no point to energy being spent telling a victim how to handle herself when it’s obvious to everyone she’s not at fault.

      There’s a million and one things she could’ve maybe done that might or might not have stopped this guy from saying quite as many gross things to her as he ultimately did. There’s one thing this guy could’ve done: not said any of that gross crap in the first place.

      In the end, we only have one thing, which is what actually happened. And what actually happened is this guy saying a bunch of blatantly gross stuff to a woman in a semi-professional setting.

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      • It’s pretty simple.

        Maybe. Or maybe it’s not.

        Anyway, your comment implies a whole bunch of things that I was neither saying nor implying. I am legitimately curious as to whether the woman has made any public statements. You seem to be saying that what she has to say is less important than the narrative on which you’ve settled.

        By the way, why is it “not a great narrative” to talk about how people can interact and communicate better and better inform their interlocutors of how the would like to be treated and how they would not like to be treated?

        Suggesting that someone take a self-defense class is not a justification for robbery and assault. And telling people to stand up to bullies and harassers is not a defense of bullying and harassment.

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      • Would you suggest a person who had been hit by a drunk driver should’ve maybe enrolled in a defensive driving course instead of placing a blame on the drunk driver?

        The reason why women don’t “say no or stand up to harassment” is because they know lots and lots of men don’t react well to that and it can cause them lots of damage, whether it’s physical, emotional, or mental. I know women who give their phone number, just for an example, to men who harass for them. Why? Because it’s easier to give them the number, then ignore their texts, than to deal with the possible blow up when she says no to him.

        You know what we should do instead of obsess over whether a woman should’ve taken a self defense course or “stood up” to her harasser? Teach men not to rape and not to sexually harass women.

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      • The reason why women don’t “say no or stand up to harassment” is because they know lots and lots of men don’t react well to that and it can cause them lots of damage…

        Sure, except that lots of woman do stand up to harassment, so it’s odd to imply that the only way we can ever help people is to treat them as if they have no efficacy.

        And who is obsessing over anything. I asked a simple question about whether anyone had more information about the story. For some reason, you interpret that in the worst possible light. In what world is more information and more context a bad thing?

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  7. [Note: I’m going to be long on this one — so long, in fact, that I first considered doing a second post. So forgive me for moving this conversation down here.]

    : “I read Mattingly’s apology and it meets all the elements for being satisfactory. He 1) acknowledges his wrongful conduct, 2) unambiguously accepts blame unto himself, 3) explains himself without dismissing his own behavior, 4) shows awareness of why his actions were unacceptable and the harm he caused, and 5) promises to do better in the future.”

    Burt – This is going to be one of those very rare times where I not only disagree with what (I think?) you’re saying, but in fact very strongly disagree.

    If anyone (including the woman he messaged) wants to forgive Mattingly as a human being, then I have no problem with this. Be my guest. But in the OP, I am judging his as a professional on his professionalism. And in that capacity, I find the quality of his apology is somewhat immaterial.

    If you will, allow me to take for a moment the case of Caleb Hannan to illustrate my point. Further, allow me to strip away the parts of Hannan’s story where I greatly disagree with most people here — the fact that he should have been allowed to repot on Essay Vanderbilt’s fraudulent past, regardless of her wishes/his initial agreement — and instead focus on Hannan’s improper reporting of her gender and sexual identity.

    As I said in Jonathan’s post, I think that in that arena Hannan failed. And yet despite that, with his editor’s (and, I have to assume, Hannan’s) apology I find that I allow a certain amount of leeway toward ‘forgive an forget.’ Transgendered men and women are far enough outside the mainstream that when [Grantland editor] Bill Simmons says that at the time the simply acted out of ignorance, I am willing to take them at their word. When they present themselves as having reached a ‘teachable moment,’ if you will, I am willing to take them at face value and move along. (Though if they show they learned nothing later, I reserve the right to judge them more harshly.)

    The case of Mattingly, however, shows up on my radar as a very different animal altogether. And while we may agree or disagree as to the extent that Hannan and Mattingly’s transgressions were similar or different from a human decency standpoint, I would hope we can agree they are on different sides of the spectrum of the rubric of professionalism. And for me, there lies the rub: while I am willing to grant Hannan the mitigation of ignorance when judging his professionalism, I unwilling to do so for Mattingly.

    To my mind, Mattingly is one of two things:

    A). A practicing journalist that had absolutely no idea that, while acting in a professional capacity, he was not allowed to sexually harass a subject he was writing about — or, worse, that he was not allowed to offer a quasi press/corporate quid-pro-quo “you want good publicity and I can give it to you” sexual dalliance with a research subject.

    B). He was a practicing journalist who was very much aware of the ethical lines he was crossing, and for whatever personal reasons chose to do so regardless.

    Both of these options, in my minds, are equally symptomatic of someone that should not be employed or taken seriously, now or in the future, as professional journalist.

    To put it another way, if I was Caleb Hannan’s boss I doubt very much I would fire him. I might train, educate, or redirect him, but I can’t imaging firing him. Similarly, I cannot imaging not firing Josh Mattingly. What’s more, if he held any position for any of my RM clients and had been caught doing anything remotely similar to what what he did with the software developer, I would have unequivocally instructed that client to fire him immediately — period.

    Or to put it yet another way, consider the professionalism of your own field.

    Imagine a fellow attorney who was discovered to have used privileged client trust to embezzle money from that same client. Imagine too that this attorney was eventually caught, and afterwards made an public apology. You might well read that apology and decide that you thought they were sincere and, as a human being, deserved a second chance in life. And you might well be right about that. But would you ever advocate they be allowed to practice law again, based solely on the feeling of sincerity you saw in that apology? I’m guessing not.

    I think for me, Mattingly’s transgression is similar — as is my judgment of his professionalism.

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    • Actually, I was posing a question and not making a claim. And this…

      I am judging hi[m] as a professional on his professionalism. And in that capacity, I find the quality of his apology is somewhat immaterial.

      …well, that answers my question, at least as to this situation (and, to some degree, Hannum’s). Well, it answers it in part.

      The analogy to the thieving lawyer helps, too… An apology from that lawyer would be a (minor) mitigating factor were I sitting on the bar court judging his continued ability to practice. Restitution would matter a lot more to me, as in, words are cheap, but paying back what you stole will actually help your victim. I don’t know how Hannum or Mattingly could tangibly help their victims (in the case of Hannum, it seems likely that Dr. V’s suicide was motivated as much by the professional shaming, which most seem to agree was fair game, as by the outing, which we agree was not.)

      I’m still wondering why (or whether) apologies matter and whether they ought to be made (if they are always immaterial why should a wrongdoer apologize at all?). If Mattingly or Hannum failed to apologize at all, or if their apologies were insubstantial and obviously insincere, then wouldn’t that also be immaterial? Victims of wrongful acts often want apologies from the wrongdoers… Why?

      So let’s say that here on the blog I write something insensitive and hurtful to others. Should I bother to apologize for it? Or if, in the court, I find I’ve made a mistake that hurt someone for no good reason; do. I apologize then? Or just do what I can to clean up my mess without bothering to acknowledge my error?

      I get mad at the Hannums and Mattingleys of the world too. They deserve to be called out and shamed for their boorish conduct. But If there is no room for apologies to have even a minor effect, then I fear the world becomes more boorish at minimum and more densely packed with Hannums and Mattingleys at worst.

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    • That’s an excellent question, and one I think I might have to ponder for a bit. Because there’s no doubt, if Mattingly didn’t apologize I would definitely count that as a strike against him — and yet even with one, I am unwilling to cut him the slack I would, say, Hannan. So why should I expect him to at all?

      Like a say, good Q, and one I need to think on.

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    • Is quid pro quo actually worse than publishing corporate press releases under your own byline?

      If the entire “mainstream media” is in breech of professional ethics [note: I’m more speaking of the editors who allow this practice — not every single reporter is a POS], why bother calling this one chap out?

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  8. Todd, I wrote about the Mattingly incident and the immature online gaming community yesterday (http://www.fateofthegame.com/mattingly-conversation-reveals-immaturity-of-online-gaming-community).

    However, I would advise you to be more careful in your judgment: the final paragraph of your article implies that people funded the IndieStatik Kickstarter project despite the sexual harassment from Mattingly, but that project was funded in 2013, well before this recent incident.

    So perhaps we all could afford to be more professional.

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    • And wait… having just read your piece — am I misreading you, or when you talk about the immaturity of the gaming community’s reaction toward Mattingly, are you actually referring those who were critical of him and not her?

      Please tell me I’m misreading you.

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      • I am referring to two groups of people. I think both groups empower sexual harassers, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and I also think both groups have an immature understanding of personal and professional integrity.

        One group is mostly male and attempts to pass off Mattingly’s conduct as something that shouldn’t be taken as seriously or as something that isn’t sexual harassment. I believe Jaffe represents this group to an extent. Some might say this group is guilty of blaming the victim. However you want to describe their arguments, they are just making excuses for Mattingly, who deserves to be punished. If we all bought into this group’s argument, people like Mattingly might get away with sexual harassment.

        The other group suggests that the female developer should remain weak when sexually harassed. LeBlanc is a part of this group. This group’s argument hinges on the idea that women are “conditioned” to be weak and thus should play the part. But anyone who knows strong, self-respecting women — my wife, sister, and mother are among them — knows that women aren’t supposed to let men harass them without a fight or a warning. I believe the online community should attempt to empower women, not encourage them to be weak victims.

        At any rate, it would be great if we all can learn or relearn a lesson from this fiasco. I sincerely hope this incident doesn’t represent our Utopia.

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