Jacob Wolf: “If you’re a content creator, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a journalist”
After winning Esports journalist of the year, Wolf spoke to us about journalist ethics, highlights, and advice for others wanting to be involved in esports journalism.
How do you feel to have won Esports Journalist of the Year?
It feels great. I was really nervous up there on stage but thankfully I had written out my thoughts earlier today. I didn’t know I was going to win but in the event that I did, I had something ready. I was able to look down. I did sort of cut a little bit of it because of the feel in the room. A lot of people in there, a lot of people talking. But it feels amazing. I wanted to win last year, this year I kinda felt like it was my year.
Career-wise, what do you think was your personal highlight or piece you were most proud of this year?
It’s the hardest thing, actually. I look at my job as a challenge and the hardest challenge this year was covering a mass shooting. It was horrific to go to Jacksonville, Florida three days after a mass shooting at a Madden tournament. To cover that was so difficult and to visit victims in hospital, to walk onto the back patio where people had literally died, there’s nothing like that. It was the first time I had ever done that as a journalist, we’ve never had a mass shooting in esports before.
That was definitely the most difficult piece I’ve ever done and overall I am very proud of the work that ESPN did around it, that I did for ESPN the magazine, but it was definitely the hardest part of my year.
Do you think a lot of people that want to get into journalism in esports, or who are already involved, are perhaps less willing to delve into that serious side or to investigate and cover tough topics?
I agree with that sentiment. I think that a lot of people are esports content creators and if you’re a content creator, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a journalist. There is a difference. I think that a lot more people will be getting into serious journalism soon as there are several US outlets that I believe will launch esports sections in the next couple of months or next year.
That makes me very excited because I want to see more hardcore, authentic, what we like to call in our industry ‘capital J’ journalism because I’ve never been so passionate about something in my entire life than that. To be one of those people is phenomenal. I love walking around and meeting all these colleagues and colleagues from other publications that I really admire. In esports, I do hope people start taking it more seriously and I’m doing my best to spread that word.
For those who want to get into proper esports journalism, what advice would you give for them to focus on?
The biggest piece of advice I can give is, as an esports journalist, your opinion matters the least. The opinions of others matter more. It is our job to information gather and to gather other people’s opinions, gather the facts, network, meet other people. If you do have an opinion, you want to have credibility so that people know you talk to others and that you have the reason to think the way you do. Nobody is going to care what I have to say or write about politics, I’m not a political reporter, I’m not in the weeds, I’m not in Washington every day. People do care about what I have to say about franchising or financials in esports because they know that every single day that’s what I’m reporting on, therefore my opinion carries weight. That only came from every single day talking to people, putting out reports and networking.
Networking is the biggest thing I think a lot of esports journalists do not do that I think they should. You should network, try to meet people new, I send cold emails all the time and I don’t get responses on probably 85-90% of them and it doesn’t bother me, it’s like, alright, but the 10% I do get are great. I always try to meet people, I always go to industry events like this, SXSW, others, and try to meet people because it’s so important.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Thank you. ESPN just took home their second award tonight overall. I am so proud of the team we have at ESPN and the support that they have given me. I have been there two and a half years, it will be three years in April, and it is surreal to see a lot of these other companies are folding and it is really sad to see that happen in the esports media space. We are keeping strong and that’s because people in our company believe in esports; I believe in esports which is why I am still in the industry.
To the fans and supporters, all the people who are on my phone right now blowing me up, I am so thankful for all of those people. I know so many good people in this industry who believe in what I do and support me every single day, not just when I am nominated for an award, but every single day that I put out something, they’re in my messages, they’re telling me ‘great job’ and that really means a lot to me.
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