Looking for leaders

Earlier today Cassandra Khaw published a piece on eSports journalism entitled As eSports booms, journalists struggle to find acceptance – and paychecks. It’s a well written article and while I’m sure much of the discussion surrounding it will be about the money, I’d like to take a moment to recognize another subject Khaw brings up in the article:

Readers unhappy with the state of eSports journalism could volunteer as replacements for journalists they found unfit … eSports journalism really needs its rare, long-term veterans to “stick around” and provide tutelage to new writers.

The subject of tutelage when it comes to eSports journalism is often something that is overlooked. New journalists volunteer for organizations wanting to make a difference (as well as a name for themselves) and often have little to no experience working in eSports or writing to any degree. When these volunteers join our eSports organizations we don’t do a good enough job orienting them to our company, culture, policies, technical requirements, and industry information in order for them succeed. These volunteers need to know and understand how our organization works, what our writing policies are, how to use our CMS and other technologies, and who to work with to get content written. As a result, many volunteers often do not last longer than 3 months at a given organization. They feel neglected, left out, and yes – still not paid.

Being a senior journalist or editor means you have significant experience and skill at creating content, but not all of these individuals are adept at leading a staff. Building a successful organization requires leaders, not just skilled content creators. An eSports organization needs people to teach volunteers how you turn a breaking news tweet into a respectable 4 paragraph written story about that piece of news. Organizations should help volunteers navigate the various personalities and organizations within the industry to help them gain access to information and interviews. Most importantly, these leaders should strive to help the volunteer achieve their own personal goals. If you have someone who starts out writing the short breaking news articles, build them up. Work with them, and eventually transition them into more feature length content. When these volunteers see their own personal growth within your organization, they are more likely to stay and keep growing.

When I started writing in eSports almost a decade ago I was fortunate enough to work with some truly dedicated individuals who helped me learn not only how to write eSports content, but also how to navigate the industry and build relationships. When I eventually started to lead my own content teams at Amped eSports and ESFI, I tried to bring that same level tutelage to my own staff. Sometimes it was less than fruitful, and sometimes it was my fault. Other times, I got to see my staff succeed and go on to stay within the industry for years afterwards.

Poor leadership, regardless of the skill of those who may be on staff, is identifiable. High volunteer turnover and a small number of people producing the majority amount of the content are quick signs.

Some might argue these issues could be resolved by simply paying writers and not using volunteers. While I agree with that thought in concept, it still doesn’t excuse the industry from doing a poor job at teaching new volunteers eager to help and make a difference. Not every volunteer is going to turn into the next 10 year seasoned eSports aficionado, but the industry needs to do more to empower those looking to get there.

When I look at the current state of eSports journalism, I continue to struggle at spotting up-and-coming talent or seeing real progression within the industry. Maybe its because the scene is so big. Maybe its because people are indeed less motivated in 2014 than they were in 2004. Maybe its the million other reasons the people at the top of the industry give for volunteers being less productive than in years past. Whatever the reason, I simply don’t buy it. eSports needs more leaders and teachers. Its up to those who have the experience and knowledge to help nurture the new wave of talent.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
-Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric (GE) from 1981-2001