Three years after anime fan Dr. Steve Brule told me in a Kotaku comment to “fuck off” after I wrote the blog “Girls Fight With Their Butts And Boobs In This Wretched New Anime,” finally, I am taking his advice. Thanks, Doc.
Today is my last day at Kotaku. I never once imagined that I could find a full-time reporting job like this—one where I could be myself, for better or worse, and live by and grow my values. What’s resurfacing in my mind as I pack up my things is my second day here: Editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo took me into a conference room to ask what I wanted to do at my cool new media job. We discussed covering MMORPGs, sexism in competitive games, Twitch, cybercrime. Stephen then turned to me and very seriously asked whether I regularly watch anime.
“No,” I replied, with as much coolness as I could in a bald-faced lie. I wanted to be a no-nonsense investigative journalist. And on top of that, I didn’t want my new boss thinking I was otaku trash.
“Oh, well, we actually need someone to be covering anime,” Stephen said. Agh. Crap. That’s actually really cool, I thought. Admitting I had understated about 20 years of anime fandom, I told Stephen I’d take it on, and again, for better or worse, I did. (You may now forward all complaints to him.) Immediately after, I bookmarked that meeting as one of those coming-of-age moments I might rewind to if I ever fell into a job that asked me to change too much.
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about my anime coverage in a post about leaving Kotaku, where people might associate me more with accountability reporting. The reason is that working here, I did become an investigative journalist, and it blows my mind every day I sit at my desk—covered now in anime figurines and amiibos—that I was given the opportunity to make that dream possible and use this platform to spur real change; I also want to say how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to write about what means the most to me: exposing systemic sexism at Riot Games and investigating the inflating bubble that is the esports industry while also, sometimes, ripping on dumbass goblin fights or considering cannibalism in Pokémon Let’s Go.
I’m leaving Kotaku still loving it and full of gratitude for the people—my editors, colleagues, and especially our readers—who have inspired me, challenged me and asked more of me than I thought I could do. Looking back, I think what’s most defined my last three and a half years here, and the thing I most hope I’ll never take for granted, is the freedom I’ve had to follow my heart. Sorry to be corny! But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little emotional.
Journalism serves its audience first and foremost, and to do right by our readers, modern-day media professionals need to search inside themselves and figure out who they are and what they stand for. That’s something many of us here and elsewhere in this industry have struggled with. (For more on this, read former Deadspin editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell’s infinitely more eloquent and well-considered goodbye post.) This whole “media” thing is really just us discovering more about ourselves and the world, and maybe generating a little empathy and human connection, you know?
Sometimes, I’ve learned, being authentic to yourself and your platform means communing with your inner shitlord who knows that you and 131,800 others will get a good laugh out of a five-year collection of anime women going “Ohoho.” Other times, it means following your otaku trash impulses and investigating the long-lost American Sailor Moon with unrestrained rigour. Most of the time, it means holding powerful people and organisations accountable and doing your best to secure justice for the people they hurt. (TBD: Does it mean ranking cereal?).
I don’t know what it says that among the first things our new private equity bosses did was dissolve the investigative unit I was a part of. (Thankfully, I was able to remain at Kotaku.)
Kotaku, Jezebel, Jalopnik, Gizmodo, The Root, Lifehacker, and formerly Splinter and Deadspin are places where the lightness and gravity of life are (were) treated with the same realness with which we experience them. All of this is to say that I hope I offered even half the realness that any one Deadspin staffer did over my time here because, I’ve learned, there are big ramifications for media players who lack authenticity and values.