Last time I wrote a politics post, I promised myself I’d take a break from writing politics. It doesn’t tend to get a lot of traffic and it’s a mostly self-serving topic. And aside for one foray into talking about how how to remove Donald Trump from Facebook, I did just that. But now that I’ve been reading about how Obamacare repeal just passed the House, and I feel like I have to say something about it.
Is anyone really surprised by this?
While Obamacare repeal failed last time, it wasn’t as though Republicans were just going to give up. This has been a cornerstone of their legislative agenda for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t just going to go away. But when Trump flips on major issues like NATO, healthcare, China and even Syria, it means that he’s learning how to play the game. It means he’s learning how to govern and make deals in Washington.
You can make fun of how he doesn’t know Civil War history all you want, but this seems to be a clear evolution of pushing forward a tangible legislative agenda. As Bernie Sanders said in February, Trump may not understood how the Constitution works back then, but he’s certainty starting to now. Deal-making and making individual concessions in bills is a clear part of how this all works, and Trump is looking to be a little more adept at this than anyone previously gave him credit for.
Still, this might be one of the biggest self-inflicted political wounds in American history. Voters in rural states aren’t going to love seeing their healthcare go up in smoke — even if they don’t understand what is going on right now. Ultimately, I think Republicans will end up regretting this vote, provided that it passes through the Senate. As of this writing, they don’t know how many people the American Health Care Act will cover, or how much it will cost. This isn’t a great way to reform the American health care system or even enact Obamacare repeal in general. This is how you cause a catastrophe like the travel ban.
Yesterday, after a somewhat stressful week, I decided that I was going to remove Donald Trump from Facebook. After getting back into the swing of things, it dawned on me that removing all news of the Donald, whether pro or con, would help regain some much needed balance in my life. With that in mind, I went ahead and downloaded a Google Chrome extension that would do just that.
But to remove Donald Trump from Facebook is not as simple as just getting rid of mentions of the man. As Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times learned, you can‘t just avoid Trump news. His presence is inescapable. You may be able to avoid specific mentions of the man, but everything from the Super Bowl to the Civil War is now framed in context of him. Still, the app that I downloaded eradicated my timeline of everything that mentioned Donald Trump, so I thought I would be in the clear.
But it turns out by trying to remove Donald Trump from Facebook, I threw my Facebook timeline all out of whack. No longer could I read posts from publications I enjoy, such as The New Yorker or The Atlantic. No longer could I get updates from some of my favorite Facebook friends. Eradicating news of Donald Trump was to eradicate my Facebook feed itself. Only the most mundane of videos, articles and updates were left for my consumption, with no mention of anything remotely intelligent in sight. It was as though by choosing to remove Donald Trump from Facebook, I was voluntary submitting myself to videos of people getting stuck in the ‘friendzone’ or getting repeatedly kicked in the balls.
I quickly learned this is exactly why Facebook does not allow itself to filter for keywords, at least not officially. Censoring any part of the news, whether harmless or deplorable, renders Facebook unusable, at least in its intended form. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe being on Facebook for more than an hour a day or so only lends yourself to hyper-partisan points of view. Or maybe partisanship is just built into the design of Facebook.
It seems that it is literally impossible to use Facebook in any engaging way without the politics and the arguing. It’s not just that its built into Facebook, but its built into the user experience we’ve come to expect from the platform. But by choosing to remove Donald Trump from Facebook, I chose to censor the news without even realizing it. Making yourself willfully ignorant is not always the best way to engage, especially if you choose to use a platform like Facebook that is centered around user engagement. Still, while it may not be possible to entirely remove Donald Trump from Facebook, you can stop giving him as much thought. At the end of the day, its voting that will change the political circumstances, no matter which way you lean, and making sure to vote and stay civically engaged is likely more important than paying attention to every foo-pah that comes out of his mouth.
If you’re a writer, one would assume that you always love writing. But if you’ve been writing a while that is typically not the case. In fact, writing can be frustrating more often than not. Sometimes, the words just don’t flow. Sometimes, writing sounds tantamount to throwing yourself off a bridge. Still, if you identify as a writer, you’ve likely understand that writing can be frustrating. You may have even have found yourself a victim of frustrated writer’s syndrome, wondering if good writing is enough.
The short answer is, it isn’t. Good art is supposed to make an impact in the world, at least a tiny bit. But good art without promotion or recognition does little good for anyone, least of all your sanity. That doesn’t mean that creating for the sake of it is a bad thing. What it means is that receiving little reward for your effort can make you feel like you’re just typing words into a black hole, scattering them to the winds.
Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a rut with my writing. When I started this blog, the idea was to write out two posts a week. For the last two weeks, that hasn’t happened. Last week, I only wrote one post. This week, I barely got out this one. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to work a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve inherently recognized that I’d rather be doing almost anything else than writing. But still, I’m increasingly realized that the point of this platform is not just at as an outlet, but as a way to get an immediate connection with tens of readers. To use writing in its intended form, as communication of ‘original’ ideas.
For too long, I’ve inherently separated my writing into ‘the projects I want to work on’ and ‘what I do to make money.’ That doesn’t mean that that change comes easily. But I’ve been able to turn my personal writing, not writing about products or services, into something getting actual views. In fact, despite writing overall less than last month I broke 2,000 views this month.
Still, this doesn’t make the fact that writing can be frustrating any easier to bear. You ever notice how a lot of content online is focused on giving advice or solving a problem? Well, this isn’t that. This is just a way for me to express myself. And sometimes, with writing, that’s all you need.
In my experience, ‘how to get into video game journalism’ is a loaded question. It’s long been said that video game journalism is becoming increasingly irrelevant. While there is some truth to that, it is also true that the money just isn’t there anymore. No longer are we in the days where IGN or Gamespot are setting the cultural conversation around video games online, and writing about games is less relevant than it ever has been. In fact, it’s mostly dominated by listicles and unconvincing reviews now, although there are some gems still out there.
Still, I do think that figuring out how to get into video game journalism is still valid, although its difficult to make a full-time income. As I’ve identified in the past, video game journalism is a great proving ground to build up experience to work in marketing and PR. However, expecting to break into video game journalism, let alone journalism at all, in 2017, is a difficult feat.
With that said, here is my take on how to get into video game journalism, and what I did to break away from it and use my experience in it to move on to other career endeavors.
Start Writing as Early as Possible
I always joke that I really started my writing career in 5th grade, when I would fall asleep in class. My teacher at the time, Mr. Klinger, would always ask me if I was asleep in ‘Dannyville’ (yes I went by Danny at that time, it was horrible). Instead of trying to prove him wrong, I turned Dannyville into a fictional universe and figured out how to turn my inherent laziness (and then-undiagnosed sleeping disorder) into something productive.
Still, I found writing about where my brain went when I fell asleep in class wasn’t exactly scratching the writing itch for me. It took a few more years, but in high school I started writing for the school newspaper, eventually becoming Opinions Editor and directing coverage such as ‘Why I Hate Math,’ general indictments against the school board and the occasional game review and film review. Ultimately, this experience helped get me more into writing, and fueled my desire to pursue writing as a full-time career. From college forward I asked the question of how to get into video game journalism to myself in a pretty serious way.
Write for Independent Video Game Sites
As soon as I started college, I started molding myself into a fledgling video game journalism. For 4 years (minus the year I studied abroad, although I was writing for USA Today then) I wrote about games online, starting for tiny little outlets and eventually working my way up to independently recognized ones. In fact, I was writing for so many outlets at low pay or sometimes no pay that I would often go to press events for major companies in NYC and have to consult with all of my editors, figuring out which one I would be covering the event for. While this was a great ego boost in college, it didn’t help me financially as much as I had hoped. After graduating, I did brief stints at Heavy and Complex, and then got a legitimate offer as the Editor in Chief of Indie Game Magazine, which was gratifying.
Unfortunately this was right around the time the infamous scandal that sunk Indie Game Magazine broke. The one where they charged for reviews. That didn’t help things, and ethically I didn’t want to be involved with a company like that, so I decided to go it alone with a colleague and create our own video game site. It went better than you would think.
Consider Starting Your Own Video Game Blog
Arguably my most successful venture as a video game journalism was co-creating the site Continue Play. I managed the strategy, recruited much of the editorial team, and created some of my best writing on video games to date. At its peak, we were able to get around 70k monthly traffic and were rivaling some of the other big independent sites. For a while there, it seemed like this might be going somewhere, but as the story goes, initial success was our own undoing.
It really is telling that anyone with a WordPress site and the skill to put together a volunteer team could make an industry blog and get into legit press events and interview some big names in the industry. Due to personality clashes (some of which have since been reconciled), the site ultimately failed, and so did my efforts in video game journalism.
Remember There Isn’t a Lot of Opportunity in Journalism
Now that I am no longer a journalist in any meaningful sense I can tell you that tempered positive coverage for free stuff is definitely encouraged, and this is not just true of video game journalism, but in all fields of journalism that need sponsorship to stay afloat. Even sites with independent bases of revenue tend to focus on product coverage, although not as frequently outside of sponsored content.
Still, it’s important to note that there is a reason that a lot of journalists have turned to marketing. For example, I used to work at a larger tech publication, and of the three editors I worked with, two moved on to marketing positions. It’s not because they lack integrity but it’s because journalists with years of experience and great skill sets just can’t make real money anymore.
For example, if you go to the games journalism job board, they are almost all volunteer or low-pay positions, even at the higher level. Again, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be a video game journalist. You just need to be realistic. Ultimately, I found personally that the best thing for my mental health was to get out of video game journalism and start anew, and keep my creative endeavors (such as comics and screenplays) wholly separate from my day job, which is as a PR Manager for an SEO company.
Well, that’s my story of being a video games journalist. I certainly don’t regret spending a lot of time figuring out how to get into video game journalism, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I hope my definitive guide serves you well to understand how video game journalism works, and where the future of the industry is headed.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he’s “not too worried” about what will happen if new FCC chairman Ajit Pai eliminates the Title II regulations that have guaranteed a neutral internet experience for US consumers in recent years.
Speaking to a group of journalists at Netflix’s headquarters in Los Gatos, California, earlier today, Hastings said he believes “the culture around net neutrality is very strong. So even if the formal framework gets weakened,” he continued, “we don’t see a big risk actualizing, because consumers know they’re entitled to getting all of the web services.
What Hastings is talking about is the idea that people won’t accept their precious Netflix being slowed down by ISP’s. Or really any form of internet TV that is being subject to internet regulation. Internet is more or less treated like a utility now, much like water and electric, so unlike in Europe, where my internet is regularly throttled for data use, we know that this is culturally unacceptable in the US to do this.
With that being said, what Ajit Pai is proposing doesn’t seem to be a fundamentally taking away of internet regulation. In fact, net neutrality doesn’t have a whole lot to do with privacy in the first place. Despite tech websites freaking out about this, it might not be as bad as we think and might even allow for broader competition instead of incentivizing ISP’s to collude with each other for territory.
Firstly, it does seem like regulating ISP’s in the same way that we regulate internet services companies doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, which is why Netflix is saying what they are saying in the first place. Despite both using the Internet as a medium, Netflix and Verizon ultimately don’t have that much in common as businesses, and probably should be governed by different rules. Obviously ISP’s should not be allowed to impair or degrade access to content and services, and it seems like Pai wants force ISP’s to write into their contacts that they won’t do this as a form of internet regulation.
Will this work? It could, but we don’t have the answers to that yet. But it it worth recognizing that Aijit Pai, an Obama-era appointee (although he is Republican), has said that he is committed to the principles of a free an open Internet. I would imagine none of us reading this are fundamentally against the idea of net neutrality, but what it seems to me is that monopolistic ISP’s that collude with each other are the real problem, as they are not going to create better service if they are the only one’s in a given area.
This is why, on a fundamental level, I’m not against Pai trying to move internet regulation back to the FTC, who can hold ISP’s accountable on the grounds of trade, and not communication. However, we do need to keep in mind that when the FCC withdraws the Title II rules that are meant to regulate large conglomerates, it also surrenders the ability to regulate how traffic data is allocated and allows ISP’s to act in their own interest before the public’s.
This seems to be to be the big problem we’re running into. And while it doesn’t seem like Pai’s proposal necessarily answers that question, it does seem to me that the point of internet regulation is to create competition in the ISP’s you can use in your area, not to help large ISP’s break up territory like this was the Berlin Conference.
By now it is likely that you have read about the Internet privacy bill that Donald Trump just signed into law. Despite Obama signing a bill later into his term to curb Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) from collecting your data, this policy has not actually gone into effect. In essence, nothing is actually changing.
But now, Congress and the Executive branch have allowed the practice of data collection from ISP’s to continue. Think of it this way. You don’t pay Google or Facebook any money. You use their product and in exchange we agree they advertise to you. Can you say that about your ISP, who will now sell your information on to other advertising agencies?
Marvel sales did an abrupt about-face over the weekend. On the same day that Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso was profiled in Fortune for championing diversity in comics, Marvel sales VP David Gabriel decided to blame diversity for Marvel’s flagging sales numbers. In regards to diversity, Gabriel had the following to say.
What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.
Gabriel later walked back his comments on Marvel sales, clarifying that Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and Moon Girl are all popular characters. Still, this reeks to me. It feels very similar to DC You, where DC attempted to do diversity in comics and then pulled out less than a year later.
It seems to me that Marvel sales wants the pat on the back and to be able to tout their diversity to mainstream media without actually committing to pushing unknown characters and giving them time to grow. This already seems to have been confirmed, as Marvel just announced the Marvel Generations crossover that will bring back all the legacy characters that have been incapacitated recently, such as Hulk, Wolverine, and Iron Man.
As a comic writer (but not a big comic reader) I find this pretty amusing. Marvel sales needs to do what it needs to do, but it seems that a sales executive commenting on the viability of a PR initiative is a stupid move that makes Marvel look like its unwilling to put its money where its mouth is.
That being said, the demographics of comic book readers suggest that men and women are relatively equal in reading comics. Maybe instead of tokenizing diversity, Marvel needs to do a better job in telling complete stories and not running crossovers every sales quarter. If they were to focus on creating fully-realized characters who aren’t beholden to Marvel sales, then maybe they will see readership go up. This happened with previous series that told great stories like Hawkeye and Vision, and I don’t see why it can’t continue to happen.
Well all remember when future president Donald Trump destroyed Marco Rubio with the nickname ‘Little Marco.’ Since then, Marco Rubio has more or less been a laughingstock among liberals and conservatives alike, and has mostly lost his prominence as a Republican figure.
But that may be misguided. This article on Slate details how Marco Rubio guided a 2015 spending bill to gut the healthcare marketplace. I only entered the insurance marketplace late last year, but was shocked to see even my employer sponsored healthcare come with an over $6k deductible. This is something I will never meet, bar an act of God. But according to this article, that sharp increase in deductibles was created by design, and was not an accident or consequence of healthcare reform.
It turns out that Marco Rubio and his Republican helpers guided this legislation by gutting what is called the ‘risk corridors’ under Obamacare. This was a tax incentive to reimburse insurance companies through taxpayer dollars for taking on an initial batch of sick people who previously did not qualify for insurance. But Little Marco in all his insight decided to cull this reimbursement through a massive $2.5 billion tax cut. He then helped pass the cost on to insurance companies who were acting in good faith, which is what caused the deductibles and premiums to skyrocket in early 2016. This was bound to happen, as insurance companies and ‘good faith’ should generally not be used in the same sentence.
While Paul Ryan has an obvious misunderstanding of how healthcare works, insurance companies generally make their money off healthy (or uninjured people), who more or less pay for the sick people whose costs can rack up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. But by design, it turns out, healthcare reform was destined to fail. While it might seem that Republicans will move on to other legislative matters now, I would expect another healthcare ‘repeal and replace’ bill to come out soon, presumably one that doesn’t take healthcare away from 25 million Americans.
Still, it’s fascinating to see that things that border on conspiracy theory actually have taken place in the public record. Marco Rubio may not have realized what he was doing, and may have just seen that as a tax cut, but there is more than just a strong correlation here. There’s a causation that defunding the ‘risk corridor’ of Obamacare would cause insurers to pull out of the healthcare marketplace. And if that doesn’t piss you off, then I don’t know what will.
Although the term ‘third world’ is often disputed as a racist term, as it “obscures all parts of a country’s culture apart from those which are to be pitied or improved,” it is more or less the best popular nomenclature we have right now. To describe the disparity between economic and political climates of countries halfway across the world from each other is difficult, as they don’t necessarily have the same goals or values and might not think of themselves as developing nations in the way that the West does. That being said, Westerners traveling to the third world are likely to have certain expectations about what may or may not be available. As someone who has done quite a bit of traveling , here are my recommendations for setting up your expectations when traveling to the third world.
You Can’t Drink the Water and You Might Get Sick
If you’ve ever planned a trip to Mexico, you’ve likely heard vague warning of Monetzuma’s Revenge (yes, the tourist version is misspelled) which refers to Moctezuma II, the ruler of the Aztec civilization. He was slaughtered and his people obliterated by Hernán Cortés, the infamous Spanish conquistador. As the story goes, the ghost of Moctezuma II is responsible for interlopers in Mexico getting the stomach flu as a petty form of revenge.
What this story really refers to is traveler’s diarrhea, which is very real, and which on my return trip from Morocco have contracted a minor case of. This is usually caused by E.Coli that your body may not be used to, and can easily be contracted from water or street food. If you see anything questionable, it’s best not to eat or drink it, or traveling to the third world will not be something you want to repeat.
You Don’t Have Absolute Freedom of Movement
In most Western nations you expect that you can go anywhere you want. You may not want to visit most of the country you live in, but you are not restricted from doing so. That’s not the case when traveling to the third world, as governments tend to be a bit more authoritarian and have closed off certain non-essential obscure areas to tourism.
For example, on a recent trip to Egypt Alex and I attempted to go to Al Menya. For context, Al Menya is the ancient (and brief) capital city that Akhenaton established when he unsuccessfully attempted to convert ancient Egyptians to monotheism. For anyone who knows me, I am a little obsessed with Akehnaten and he is one on the principal subjects of my upcoming graphic novel, so I was excited by the prospect to see such sites as the Tomb of Ay.
However, as we asked around how to get there, Egyptian nationals were shocked we wanted to go there in the first place, and we ultimately found out that if we were to have gone, we would have been immediately detained without an approved guide. While I was disappointed that we did not get to see those sites, it is a more obscure region and when traveling to the third world you can’t expect that areas not explicitly geared toward tourism will be open to you.
Minor Amenities Are Not Guaranteed
Toilet paper. Soap. Bath towels. Reliable internet. One would expect all of these amenities at any hotel in the United States or even a hostel in Western Europe (although you may have to pay extra for some of these). But depending on where you are staying, you might not have immediate or even any access to these types of amenities. There’s only so much you can do to prepare for this, like bringing your own roll of toilet paper and an extra bar of soap, but adjusting your expectations when traveling to the third world will go a long way in ensuring that you enjoy the experience for what it is, not despite it.
There Are ‘Hidden Costs’ Everywhere
It might seem like you will get a huge bargain when traveling to the ‘third world,’ but this is not always the case. Because capitalism is a relatively new system in these countries, many enterprising people will try to rip you off or will not be upfront with costs. Sometimes you might even be aware this is happening but have no other option. Still, you need to make sure that you are prepared to spend a bit more than the costs are on paper. Fees will often be tacked on to activities that were not clear or upfront when you booked them. This has actually happened almost every time that I’ve gone traveling to the third world.
Rather than get angry about this, I usually take it in stride, and understand the economic disparity between myself and the people in the country I’m visiting. That’s not to say I have the coin to start giving away money, far from it, but I can afford to understand that this is the reality of the situation. If you cannot or will not do this, I don’t recommend that you start traveling to the third world anytime soon.
Still, traveling to the third world can open you p to some amazing cultures and enriching experiences. This will not only give you perspective, but allow you to see some of the great sites of the world, including the Luxor Temple in Egypt, Tikal in Guatemala and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, all of which I’ve visited recently Keep all of this in mind when traveling to the third world and you’ll be sure to have a great time.
In my previous post, I discussed why I moved away from video game journalism after graduating college. But more broadly, I also moved away from journalism in its entirety (although I still do the occasional freelance piece). Actually, this effort in writing and regularly updating my blog is largely an extension of me wanting to continue to publish writing online on my own platform, but there is a reason that I and so many others have moved away from journalism as a legitimate and profitable career.
Coming from a journalism family (my father is a journalist) I always assumed that would also be my path after college. Like an Earnest Hemingway or Hunter S. Thompson, I’d write creatively and also go on assignments for magazines and newspapers, except in this era they’d be digital. But as I neared graduation of college, that path seemed increasingly unlikely. Despite having the credentials, I was mostly only able to land gigs writing ‘viral’ style content after college, and like a virus, these pieces of meme-able and GIF-able bite-sized articles felt like what the new journalism was, at least to me.
It would be one thing if these paid a meaningful amount of money, but in reality I was making more in my brief stint as a security guard than anything that the digital publications were willing to pay at that time. Even then, a standard piece for a mid-level digital publication pays $75, a pittance when you consider the hours of revision and editing that need to be followed.
Teaching and Journalism Have a Lot in Common
Fundamentally, what this represented to me was a shift, not just a cultural one but an economic one. Of the industries to initially be affected by the digital boom and subsequently the economic recession of the late 2000’s, journalism is one of the biggest examples. Like teaching, journalism is quickly becoming an unrepresented profession. The pay does not attract the best minds, but only those who both believe in the kind of work they are doing and can afford to or are willing to take a lower pay rate than most other professions provide at similar levels of experience.
But what is really fundamentally similar about teaching and journalism is that they are both services that the majority of us don’t pay for anymore. While you can send your kids to private schools or subscribe to high-end magazines, the majority of us neither pay for education (at least before college) or for the stories we consume online. This leads to an undervaluing of the profession in general. That’s not to say that we ought to start paying for either service in the near future, as the cultural shift has already occurred, although journalism is definitely suffering greatly in the process. But we need to recognize that failing to do so erodes innovation in both industries and means that on the whole we won’t have the best and brightest taking over the mantle from the aged veterans of teaching and journalism.
There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Noble’ Profession
At the end of the day, we all work because we have to make a living. The current economic realities of our system require us to all work, and the top talent usually goes elsewhere when the money dries up. That’s not to say that the future generations of teachers and journalists will all be mediocre. In fact, I’m sure plenty of great teachers and journalists are still yet to come.
But as long as we look at both as undervalued and condescendingly think of them as ‘noble’ professions, then we won’t make teaching and journalism viable industries for people to go into. And if both the dissemination of information into young minds and into everyday citizens continues to be devalued, then it’s not too long until future generations are unable to see any value in these professions at all.