5 minutes with Alex Walker

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
Alex Walker joins Influencing this week for our latest 5 Minutes, with plenty of thoughts on his journey through journo land.
 
What do you do and where does your work appear?
I'm the editor of Kotaku Australia, and all my stuff appears on https://www.kotaku.com.au
 
Anything else in your career you’ve been known for?
I basically led all the gaming coverage for ABC Technology + Games, I've written for PC Powerplay, Cybershack, games.on.net when that was around. Main thing was doing a lot of esports coverage for the first decade of my career, but my job now requires me to be more of a generalist. Before that, I used to run a lot of esports -- just gaming in those days -- tournaments around Sydney, which was a great experience.
 
What did you really want to be when you were growing up?
An astronomer!
 
Which story or stories are you most proud of?
Writing about drugs in esports, an interview with my Discord impersonator, breaking local stories that catch fire internationally (usually around layoffs or games being banned or other industry machinations), stuff like that. I did have one interview with an Aussie kid who wanted to teach everyone poetry through Hearthstone, which was incredibly fun.
 
Oh and that time Darude told me how a grandmother wanted Sandstorm played at their funeral - and then Darude's PR desperately tried to have the quote pulled because they didn't think it was good brand alignment.
 
What's your secret superpower?
Patience, or so I've been told? Dealing with Counter-Strike forums gives you an immense capacity for dealing with bullshit, apparently.
 
What are three top tips you can give PR pros for working with you effectively?
I don't know that I'd want to give advice to PR -- I don't like assuming I know how to do their jobs, or how they should be done. It's a whole different beast, and it wouldn't hurt some grumpier, older writers to appreciate that.
 
How do you like to start a PR relationship if you've never been in touch before?
Email doesn't hurt - quick intro, outline of clients and what the situation is. You don't have to overthink it.
 
What's the most important lesson you've learned about journalism?
Take a step back. There's so much about this world that is out of our control. Google. Facebook. Internal machinations. Timing.
 
How do you hunt for good stories?
That's the secret sauce, isn't it?
 
What's been the biggest change in the industry over the past decade?
Social media and the impact it has not only on traffic, but sales/budgets.
 
What do you think is the most important issue facing the tech industry today?
Revenue, insofar that most media companies are struggling to find alternative sources.
 
What's the biggest issue facing journalism?
Also revenue. Without alternative methods of creating a stable base, there's no impetus or room to expand teams or expand coverage. You don't get bigger audiences without more content and more eyeballs, but you can't get more content without paying for it in some form.
 
Exclusives are everything. Discuss.
Probably, although exclusives are also a mechanism for being supremely petty. As someone who's been on the side of a few blacklists -- that's life with a provocative US team, or at least provocative in the gaming space -- I've always found that exclusives also generate a few nuggets and second, third-day stories that places often miss.
 
So to really answer the question, exclusives aren't everything -- but from a traffic and growth standpoint, they are still incredibly valuable.
 
What do you wish you'd never have to explain to readers ever again?
Nothing that I can think of. Most readers seem to get it, and the chats we have on the community Discord are pretty great - readers are even really understanding about the amount of bugs and nightmares you go through with things like replatforms.
 
Name a recent story you wish you'd written.
Not a story as such, but more a topic I wish was easier to cover. Our US team wrote a couple of stories into what's been happening in gaming with all the sexual harassment allegations. If they hadn't written them, we wouldn't have been able to publish. Defamation law in Australia is so incredibly restrictive that even reporting as far down the line as possible still isn't enough -- even things like embedding tweets, or linking to other articles, is enough to get you done for defamation these days. It's depressing; it's a system setup to protect people with the most money, and certainly not one that protects people coming forward.
 
Who is the best journo in the industry and why?
Offbeat pick, but what I think James Burns has done with Super Jump is really clever. It's the first time I've seen a different funding model be deployed for what you'd consider to be traditional gaming journalism, or traditional gaming feature writing. The industry needs more gambles and more thinking like that if we want to actually have a chance to promote more voices.
 
Which industry publications, podcasts or other productions are on your unmissable list?
Not going to go into all of them, but one I've found that has some interesting stuff from time to time is Abacus News, or the tech portal of the South China Morning Post.
 
How do you keep up with what your colleagues are writing?
Feedly, social media, the usuals.
 
Which app has changed your life more than any other?
Faststone Image Viewer is so insanely good I'm kind of surprised more people don't use it. The amount of time I save a day with that (and Faststone Capture) is bonkers.
 
Favourite screen-free hobbies?
Modern board games are legitimately great, but cooking, wasting time with cats, and trying to learn how to draw all work.
 
What's your best party trick?
Cooking! I'm not a party trick guy :(
 
What’s your go-to song at karaoke?
The drink I hold in the back of the room while other people sing. Fuck karaoke. Unless I'm drinking.
 
Favourite sporting moment?
Michael Bevan vs the Windies in the '90s. (Fun fact: his daughter is dating Muselk these days, and she's legitimately awesome in her own right.)
 
Have you ever been said to resemble a famous person or character? If so, who?
Definite no on this one.
 
What's your favourite game of all time?
Hard to go past Counter-Strike -- the amount of friends I still chat to today because of that game, the amount of doors that opened up was pretty wild.
 
Name five discs you'd want to be stuck with on a desert island?
Mate, I can't play discs on my iPhone. But I could happily live with Reanimation, The Living End, the Nu-NRG live set from some Euro rave called Orgasmatron (don't ask, it's a great set though), 'Little Girl, Gen' from the Child of Light soundtrack and Cœur de pirate's Blonde. (She's the same singer from Child of Light.) I tend to listen to individual singles more than full albums, though.
 
What was your favourite TV show of the 2010s?
Not a huge TV person, but I've thoroughly enjoyed Billions. It's basically Suits minus the pettiness and grand larceny played out on a bigger, more intriguing scale. Fifth season has taken a while to get off the ground, though.
 
What vices do you lean into when you're chasing a tight deadline?
Shitty EDM, potentially nightcore if it's an especially fucked day. Don't judge me. I have to write somehow.
 
What's the most ridiculous buzzword in the industry?
Virtual.
 
The PR fairy calls saying you can have the interview of your dreams. Who's it gonna be?
I'd love to interview the High Court's Justice James Edelman, who oversaw the lawsuit between the ACCC and Valve. I'd love to know what he thought as that case unfolded.

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