Chief Reporter & Investigative Lead for Dot Esports. A lifelong gamer, Jacob worked at ESPN for four and half years as a staff writer in their esports section. In 2018, the Esports Awards named Jacob their Journalist of the Year.

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Transcript

Kyle Warren:

Good morning, and welcome to the unified experience Podcast. I am your host, Kyle. But most people just call me boona. This is an Esports podcast that brings on talent from across the industry to be the spark that fuels passionate gamers to change the world. If you are new here, or returning, please consider following and or subscribing to your platform of choice. Doing so allows you to stay up to date with the most current episode, as well as gets this content into the hands of gamers that need to hear it. I'm so humbled that you're here. And let's go ahead and get started with the show. Good afternoon, Jacob. How are you?

Jacob Wolf:

I'm doing well. How about yourself?

Kyle Warren:

You know, I I can't complain. It's nice and muggy here in Austin, Texas, or at least the part where I'm in. So it's kind of a nice day to sit inside do a recording.

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, no, I went out briefly today. I sold my old graphics card and went to HEB. And I was just like, Okay, this is this is something

Kyle Warren:

I mean, I feel like here in Austin, the weather. It's like I turn my heater on one day, and then I have the air conditioning on the next day. You know, it?

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, we we are a big believer in that we have like one of the nest learning thermostats and we're a big believer in the heat cool method. So it like if it gets above a certain heat, it will cool it if it gets below a certain temperature it will heat the house up constantly have the thermostat set to heat cools this time of year because it's either really really hot or really really cold. I know in between

Kyle Warren:

Yeah, Texas just doesn't ever want to get cold. So it tries to give us some a glimpse ofa glance glass of warm weather here and there.

Jacob Wolf:

true.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah, I mean, I live in an apartment. So I wish that I could really install one of those in mind without messing up my terms and conditions or my lease. Because I'll tell you we all my father one of those he just absolutely love that feature.

Jacob Wolf:

I actually have so this I live in an apartment that came with one pre install, but I've actually installed one and then an apartment and then just took it out it's probably not as bad as you think because like the plates, like the plate the like little cover plate thing, like, depending on the type of thermostat you have, you could just like basically hide it. Just like patching. I've done a lot of drilling into walls in this place that I will have to do when I move out. And that's okay. I like the one thing about quarantine is I figured out how to patch a wall I had a wall fall through on me while I was like cutting something and the entire wall collapsed while I was mounting a TV. So I had to do that. So I've got to figure it out. That's my quarantine project, just home improvements.

Kyle Warren:

Oh, the joys of that. That's awesome. That's awesome. I've done quite a bit I haven't done as much I'm always too scared to do some home improvement just because like, in my in my eyes, like my apartments like this isn't gonna be my permit living quarters. So I'm just like, I'm gonna do as much as I can. Without doing that, but I'm going to live I actually reinvented my entire apartment during this process. So I can I can definitely relate on that front. There you go. Got to spend all day at home. But anyway, pleasure to have you on just to you know, like I just just for the people who don't know for my audience, you know, give a quick introduction to yourself, who are you? What do you do?

Jacob Wolf:

My name is Jacob Wolf, and I am the chief reporter and investigative lead at a company called dot eSports. I started working at eSports again in January, for four and a half years before that I worked at ESPN and their Esports department as a staff writer. I am a like what I like to call capital J journalists. So I focus a lot on investigative journalism, breaking news, etc. My role at ESPN really was exactly what it sounded like very much a writer role that was primary responsibilities, I'm on camera work as well, I was fortunate enough to get to producer Sports Center and outside the lines during my time there as well on a few different projects. But now actually, my new role at Dot is really what I was looking to do. Eventually anyway, and this is to not only do my own work, but to also work with some of my less experienced colleagues and our freelancers and contributors to level up their work sort of dive in further into reporting help simultaneously educate so I am not an editor in the sense of like I'm editing their pieces but I have some sort of the like mentorship editor responsibilities on my plate also. So it's a hybrid role. Now I do I did a lot of on air stuff my final year at ESPN, I'm doing less of that and more behind the camera work on a dot I'm working on some other things as well, which I can't super dive into yet, but we'll be able to later in the year but yeah, it's a it's very unique. It's it's something you would not see in a traditional newspaper but I also tend to think I'm a unique person with a unique life. So I'm happy to have a role that's was literally created for my interests. So I'm super thankful and three weeks in really enjoying my new job, dude,

Kyle Warren:

Dude that's fantastic. I mean, and you want one thing I want to one thing I want to touch on is, like you mentioned, like a traditional, you know, a traditional position like a traditional publication company, a traditional website, like, you highlight the difference of like, what that like what role you're in versus, like, what the traditional company looks like?

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, I mean, it ESPN, like staff writer was sort of the entry level title for for someone who published on our website, or worked in the magazine. And I think they a lot of those roles exists within like the standard newspaper as well. Cause ESPN is structured a lot, at least espn.com, and ESPN, the magazine infrastructure, and a lot like a newspaper. There were a lot of I mean, a lot of our editors were former newspaper folks who who were a top of the org. Whereas, you know, Dot is no longer a startup per se, company has been around since I want to say 2013 was their first year when they were part of the Daily Dot. And then in 2016, they were acquired by a company called Gamers. So they've been an independent thing for almost five years, I think it's five years in May or June. And, So I think that that's, you know, my role now is not something that really exists, probably the closest thing to what it would be if you were using a newspaper term would be editor at large, where somebody works on their own stuff and has some sort of business side input to it a publication, but I'm probably not as business oriented as an editor at large, somewhere kind of in the middle. So and kind of just figuring it out the whole whole plan here for why I took this job rather than some of the others that I've got offers for was that I wanted to kind of grow as well over a period of years. So that's, that's what I'm looking forward to as we as we sit here now it's, it's been a lot different takes some adjusting to, to kind of bounce from a really traditional role into something like this, but I'm definitely up for the task, and I'm enjoying it so far.

Kyle Warren:

That's fantastic. I mean, I can I can absolutely relate to it. Having that having that like kind of scrappy startup nature, where it's like you have a job title, but there's, there's a lot of different things that you do do. I work for I work for Legal Zoom, and, you know, we started a startup program within there. And it's like, it was we saw it from start, you know, we start right from the beginning. And it's just been an incredible amount of growth for the path, like this pilot project just turned into so much more. And I realized that like, my role, I had three different job titles, my first like six months there, you know, because no one could figure out what to what to call me what I did, but it just I was essential, and it made it work. And I think there's a lot of you know, it's a it's definitely a unique role, and I don't think it's for everybody because you could come in one day and do something completely different than you did yesterday.

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah,

Kyle Warren:

You know, so So yeah, I can definitely relate to that. I think that's a cool area that you got to dive into and it's honestly in my opinion what makes people a lot more unique and more desirable to to work in places like this because they they have that trust they know that whatever whatever you're going to be thrown it's just gonna happen regardless, you know,

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, I'm like I'm an entrepreneur at heart generally like I like going out there and doing big things and like taking these really large swings trying new things experimenting, right? Like I and some of those, like desires and like itches were definitely not scratch during my time at ESPN. I learned a lot as a journalist. First and foremost, right like I I have worked with some of the best editors and all sports. In some cases in all journalism. I had writers who are like legendary in my Flying like Seth Wickersham, and Mina Kimes, right? Like these people are my friends and my former colleagues and like they are, when you work with people like that, and you're able to like shoot them a text or a DM and they get back to you really fast, like you can learn a lot, there's a lot to take from it. But I did you know, we were ESPN eSports, the website vertical, when it existed was definitely a start up within a big media company. But there were definitely times where, you know, I would get involved in like, say editing, at BlizzCon, a sports center hit that we need to put together that we were tasked to put together as a team. And like, we were simultaneously told that if we didn't get our video equipment out of a press room, then it was going to be held till the next day by like event security. And so like, our producer editor who was on the ground with us was like, I gotta go get my stuff, because this is like 1000s and 1000s of dollars for the gear company here. And I was like, well, SportsCenter needs is to have something in by this, you know, certain amount of time, or it won't run tonight. So like, I may be a writer, but I know how to video. And so I sat there on my laptop and did it. And there was a superior over my shoulder who was like, kind of just like giving me the look. And I was like, look like, it's got to get done. Like he needs his equipment. And it's gonna take him some time to tear it down by himself. And I need SportsCenter expects us to get this in. So like, I don't know what you want us to do? I definitely had some instances where it was like, that's not your job. And it's just like, doesn't matter. Like, it just needs to get done. Like, it's not the person's whose job is doing something else, and they have their other responsibilities. So I definitely felt some of those pains while they're super appreciative, appreciative of my time at ESPN, but yeah, those those interests are a lot more scratch now in a company where fluidity is everything,

Kyle Warren:

You're allowed to do that. I mean, and it's, I think it's a really important thing, cuz a lot of these massive companies like they've been structured in this certain culture, where it's just like, it's very rigid with what the job requirements are, it's like you are you are hired as this. So this is all you do. And so, I think people are so trained. And so I mean, I'll just be honest, closed minded around, like doing something brand new. at like, when when you throw a task like that, it's like, this needs to be done regardless. So we just got to figure out how to make that happen. I mean, I think that's a, an art form, honestly, it's lost in a lot of people.

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, for sure. I agree. We were the king of borrowers at ESPN eSports, like borrowing somebody else from something else on like, there all the time. And I just, like, wanted to contribute.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah. Cuz, because we were a really small staff until our final year. So it was it was definitely uh... it definitely took a lot, a lot of energy and work and doing a bunch of other things on the job description. But I like that stuff. I like it, I see it as a growth opportunity for myself, really.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah. I mean, yeah, you're exactly right. And so one thing I want to touch on prior to tapping into some of my other questions is like, you know, when it comes to when it comes to Dot eSports, you know, like, as a as a whole, like, you know, this is just some context from where this is coming from is that, like, you know, I see a lot of newspapers that are like, you know, newspaper, like, a lot of like, like reading a newspaper form is a form of content that people aren't necessarily engaging with anymore. And a lot of newspaper companies are struggling to, like, you know, make ends meet and like, figure out how to still deliver that same level of content, like. How does Dot eSports, like, thrive in this environment go from a startup to, like, fully independent, you like were there?

Jacob Wolf:

Sure, um, I mean, we, I will take no credit for this, because this pipeline developed while I was not at the company, but like, we are SEO kings in the esports and gaming space, like, the one thing about Dot eSports, the Dot esports offering, if you open up our website, or go to any of our game index pages is that like, you will find everything that's happened in that game or in Esports in any given day. And we have a pipeline of like people who their primary responsibility whether as a job or a contributor, contrary contributor is to literally write SEO articles that are SEO oriented, right, like so like, say there's something new about a game and people are like, trying to learn how to figure it out, right, like, and they like, want the instructions. We have people who write articles about those things. And those things get a ton of inbound Google search traffic. That's not my job. It doesn't fall on me to do that, like my job is to help build the company's reputation for good investigative journalism. But that is able to exist because we are making money off of the other stuff, right, like the inbound traffic from SEO, the social media stuff. Now, that's all really important. You know, I... I agree that people don't read as much now. But I, I'm not a subscriber to the fact that it's so much change a habit as it is sort of what is being written so much of journalism has become quantity over quality and I tend to think if you write a long form piece that is True quality that were like a lead and a nutgraph is punchy and concise and like it does what it's intended to do to hook someone in and tell them, hook them in, and then tell them why they should read the rest of the story. Like, I do think people read those things, right, like, and I say that because I've seen articles go viral in that context. So like very recent one was, and I think I mentioned this in the light session earlier this week that, like, there was a piece about Martin Shkreli, and a reporter falling in love with him. And another reporter, who was her peer wrote the story about this reporter sort of like, falling in love with a source and like the story went viral over the Christmas break. And it was a long article, and I bet you hundreds and hundreds of 1000s if not millions of people read the entire thing. Because it was interesting, truly interesting. Whereas I do feel like a lot of long form writing, quote unquote, is is very wiki like Wikipedia type read English quite boring Or like the, it's just bad. It's just bit like the art form is somewhat lost. And the but I think the good ones do get, like do get readers, they really do like Mina Kimes and Jeff passan just wrote a piece about the Met's General Manager, really, again, another really long, long piece by word length, about the match General Manager, sexually harassing a reporter and a reporter who is a foreign correspondent from another country that came to the US to cover baseball. And like the story was super long. But again, it was another one of the things that everyone was sharing. Because it was topical, and well written and well researched and reported. So yeah, I think it's like a little bit of a chicken and egg situation like people don't read. But also they aren't necessarily given sort of the meat and potatoes to read as much anymore as they were once upon a time.

Kyle Warren:

I you know, that that's a really good point. Because like, I'll tell you, I didn't really start diving into a hole like I, I'll tell you the last book, and this is kind of like, I don't know if it's embarrassing, or what but I'll be fully transparent is like the last like, actual book I read was, was The Two Towers back when I was in elementary school, Lord of the Rings, and like, you know, reading just hasn't been as appealing to me, but the I won't, and I don't know, I didn't really know what the reason was behind that. It's like, what do we chalk that up to? And it's like, you know, what you just mentioned is that there's I, we've honestly been so conditioned, or at least for me, I've been so conditioned to like, for, like, you know, to like clickbait clickbait media, you know, I mean, like, where it's just like, there's just not a lot of good stuff there. And it's like, they want you to gravitate towards the video, because that's the new thing or like, you know, they just,

Jacob Wolf:

It's easier to sell ads guns is really the base level is like a brand ad in the corner of a video is worth more than a adsense ad. Yeah, frankly.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, fantastic point, cuz I'll tell you like that what you said makes a lot of sense. And it probably whether I knew it or not, is probably a good reason why I just never gravitated towards that. You know, because it's just, if it's not good, I'm not gonna read it. I mean,

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, I mean, what I'm reading right now, it's Batman by Rachel Maddow, the nonfiction book, I was the same way I didn't read a lot in high school or college or even at the beginning of my journalism career. But it was also because like, fiction just doesn't really interest me. It's not really my cup of tea like nonfiction, investigative, storytelling, etc, does. And the only reason it, like the only reason I started reading and given was because I, like actively seek out now books that are of my interest like that one, or some of the others that are behind me on the shelf. But yeah, unfortunately, like that I think the education system has something to do with those that you're like, you're forced to read things that are not of your interest. And so by the time you go out and become an adult, and get, you know, either get through high school or get through college, like you've read so much, but it's not garbage. It's well written. But it's also probably not something that actually interests you that you just don't want to do it anymore.

Kyle Warren:

Right? Yeah, we're conditioned to like, it's because we have to, and I think school teaches is a weird balance of like, there's things in life that you don't, that you don't necessarily always enjoy, but like you do need to do. And I think that I think they literally took I think that's a literal element that they took and said, like, we just need to make that a blanket statement. You know, even if you don't enjoy it, you have to do this the entire time was like, Okay, let's teach you some elements like where you have to eat some dirt a little bit, or you got to do some things you don't want to do like that's just called being an adult. Like there's just things that suck and you got to do them. But I think you're exactly right. There was nothing of school for me at least that interested me. Like I did not want to read anything about any science books or history books or like even these regular books that they that they just didn't appeal.

Jacob Wolf:

Yep, I agree. And I I like I think it is. I think that alternative teaching methods are becoming a thing, but they're just not a thing quick enough.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah.

Jacob Wolf:

Because it's like the people educating now we're still the ones who had, like, the only way they know how to educate is the way that they were educated. And it's exactly what we just said so I don't know. There are people who are visual learners. I think video medium and audio medium in particular is growing to especially pre COVID when more people were commuting, but yeah, I mean, I do think that there's a there's a bear a lot of people bear responsibility for decrease in readership both for literary medium and and actual online medium to.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, there's a whole nother whole nother topic, we could discuss about that, but it's like, you know, want to want to want to switch gears into into the realm of Esports. You know, like, this thing is a, like, eSports is something I've always been extremely passionate about, but never knew how, especially as a kid, but never, it was just so, so early. And to be honest, it still is, knew how to really express that like, because it's just like these little pockets of passion that you would always find, I feel like we're finally starting to bring this all together. You know, so what I'm what I'm really curious about is when it comes to like investigative journalism, you know, in the esports role with all the different forms of communication out there, like what is what is the primary function of that? And what purpose? You know, does that serve in the overall community?

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, I mean, the biggest one is, like, the biggest purpose that serves is accountability. You know, like the, the highest volume of storytellers right now, in eSports are first party storytellers, meaning like teams themselves, right, they have their teams like Team Liquid, who have One Up studios who are literally owned by them, and they do some fantastic work. But like, there's a certain level of things you will never see, because it is owned by the team. And there are a lot of teams that are building content teams that mirror that in the Western world in North America and Europe. But there's so much going on that you don't see it all finances, scandal, corruption, whatever it may be sexual abuse, like all of that, and they're not going to tell those stories, it's terrible PR to do so. But it doesn't mean that those stories shouldn't be told period, right for the industry to grow, you also have to hold certain people accountable to what they're doing. And I think that's the biggest need for investigative journalism in eSports right now, Because that stuff certainly does exist, at the highest level, maybe not in the same volume it did when I started my career. Because like the LCS, the LEC, the LCK, and the LPL a franchise, so there's a certain level, you have to have a certain level of wealth and experience to be in those teams, or in those leagues, but And that's wrong, in my opinion. Like I think finances should be player contracts, franchise fees, etc, should be a more public thing. And I've taken it upon myself where I can do that. For leagues like the Overwatch league in the Call of Duty league in particular. And, yeah, to me, like, to me, I think that it's really important right now, for that, and I think most people and this is why I do things like Enlight, I think most people just don't know where to start with actually diving into becoming an investigative journalist. I constantly am trying to be a resource not only to the people I work with, but other publications and people starting that career for themselves too.

Kyle Warren:

Absolutely, man. And I think you bring up a you bring a fantastic point, cuz I mean, like, one thing that is the topic of a lot of people's, I guess, curiosity or like, peak curiosity is around finances, you know, in eSports, because it's just like, you know, we all at the end of the day, we all have to eat right, you know, so like, it's like, how does eSports really make money? You know? And so I think that's, I think that's a very good topic to cover on or until, like, at least exposed for what it is because my opinion, you know, is that I feel like there's too many people that are trying to hit the gas pedal to the floor, versus just lightly accelerating in eSports because like the sports didn't become where it was overnight. You know, if you look at like traditional like baseball, football, basketball, like it took time to like build up a league it took time to like, get these people paid. It took a long time, but I think that we are so desperate to like become relevant, that like if we don't put our foot on the gas pedal then people are just gonna forget.

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, I mean, I saw Travis Gafford. retweet the other day the an Esports insider article about the Morgan Stanley report about the Overwatch league before it launched, saying that it can make $790 million in league revenue in one year. And I just like laughed my ass off to be perfectly honest, because I remember that report when it came out in 2017. And it was bullshit then and It's bullshit now. And but it was peddled, I don't know this backstory of how that report originated. But I will say that I, I got it from a blizzard source, which should tell you all you need to know. Because it the the headlines of the report were out there, but the actual report itself was private and confidential unless you pay for it. And like I said, I got it sent to me by Blizzard source, which, again, should tell you what you need to know. And to me, peddling stuff like that, that is totally unfounded. And speculative is very dangerous, In a league that now has pretty significant financial concerns, right? Like the Overwatch league is still the most costly franchise league in all of Esports. And in a game that's player basis, dwindling, the longer things go and go. So I think it's important to talk about those things. But for so long, gaming has just been access based. And the distinction between journalism and content creation is very narrow. And it's just it's difficult, it's can be really hard to convince people why journalism is important. And I like I try to do that both publicly and privately. So I don't know, it's but it's super necessary. I do think it's necessary to keep it in check. I'd rather we grow slow than grow fast and wide to get there. Yeah, like, be real about it.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah. I mean, it was either there's this thing about, like, you know, if we don't, there's a lot of people here. And I think that, you know, the more we talk about this, it makes a little a lot more sense. It's like what a lot a common problem is, like people have skills that eSports would benefit from, but if we don't like, like, truthfully expose the problem, if we're, if we're not honest about what the problem is, how are these people going to apply their skills to actually solve these problems? You know, and in and it's like, you know, there's a lot of gray area about, like, people want to get into this industry, but they don't know how, because no one's clear on what the problem is. And no one's clear on how they fit into this puzzle piece. You know,

Jacob Wolf:

Correct.

Kyle Warren:

Now, and I think that you brought up but you got brought up a good point there, though, you know, like, when it comes to journalism, over content creation, you know, like, what is like, from, from your view, or like from a literal definition, you know, like, what is the primary difference between those two?

Jacob Wolf:

I think the objective is the primary difference between the two, there are a few things that derive from the objective, like ethics and standards. But really, the objective is the big deal. A objective journalism is like, the truth comes first, and you're the people you are serving as the public. It's not about money. It's not about making someone like making a subject happy. It's about you know, informing the public, educating the public, providing them necessary information. And now, like, the only people you have an obligation to as journalists is to people who write your checks, and the people who read your work. Whereas content creation is, and this may be a little harsh on some, but like, it is really, the objective is to, like, pay your own bills, truthfully, right? Like, it's Pad your own pocket, get views to do that, and build your wealth. And there are some people who like to try to play both sides of the fence, and be a content creator and a journalist. And I do think that like eSports, journalism has a long way to go to be competitive in pay and like, livable for a lot of people. So it's, it's why things like content creation, or PR, for example, like which are a lot more stable financially right now make a lot of sense for people who are coming out of communication school. But I like journalism, to me is a very noble thing. I think I'm probably a little different than most people in my age group in that regard. But like, I, I'll put it this way, like I just went through a job search process of, like, almost two months, where I had some people who would have given me a GLARING conflict of interest if I worked for them, and wanted me to be a journalist, and were essentially handing me a blank cheque. And I could have self enriched and sold out and made a ton of money. And I didn't, I wouldn't work for a company who like to me like, again, I know the guy. I knew the guy that I worked for now from working with him in the past. I know what type of person he is, from an integrity perspective. And I like believe the publication I work for now is integral and does good work and holds a certain level of standards to everything we do. Whether it is that SEO oriented content or if it's the investigative journalism, there's a certain level of standard beheld. It's not just all click Baity shit. And I think that that's important, right? Like I like and, and I'm 23 going on 24 I have all the all the time in my life to make money and save and invest in become wealthy. And that is not my priority, but that is the priority for some. And like money is the motivation for some people. It's not for me and So be it, but I do think the objective of like, what you're after is, is really the big distinction. And they're everything else kind of spins up.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah, I mean, and you and you touch on, like eSports, as well, in the grand scheme of things. It's a it's small potatoes compared to like the rest of like, when you put it in scale of the entire world, it's like, I think with as the internet grows, I mean, it's kind of hard to believe with everything that's happening now, like the internet is still in its infancy, you know, like, we are still very new to this. And it's a very, like, the more we keep going, the more problems get exposed from the internet doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad thing. But it's just like, our problems become very amplified, you know, and a lot and I don't think we haven't had these problems, per se, but like, our problems have become a lot more in our face because it's not accessible. You know?

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, a big problem right now, which I wouldn't say it's a problem. It's somebody who navigate with I guess this is the idea of a star journalist is really new. And it's in part because of Twitter. Right? Like, if you're a journalist that has like, I'll take for example, someone like Yashar Ali, right, who's a freelance journalist. Yashar is a social media star, like dude's got hundreds of 1000s of followers, he freelances or writes, and produces a bunch across a bunch of different places. But he like someone would 100% pay him high six figures if he wanted a full time job. I fully believe in that because he's a social media star. And I will tell you, that many publications, having worked for one big one for four and a half years, who has a big name, have their own a lot of these publications and newspapers, traditional publications, etc, who are important in their own right, they struggled to realize why that audience matters. I think that when you like why an individual person's audience matters rather than their own. I think a lot of younger watchers, readers, audience, whatever that engage with, with these journalists on social media, you know, like Yashar, Mehdi Hasan, Maggie Haberman, like that level of the celebrity journalists. I think that the reason that people engage with them is because they like them as people. Many of them are their true selves, either on TV or in their writing, or in their own tweets. And so people engage with them. I believe that like more people, like me, because I'm myself on social media than just being a content robot. And so, like, I could have gone to work for a traditional publication rather than a independent publication. And I could have had some big name on my resume again, for the second time in a row. But like, I truly believe that more people care about me than they ever cared about, or at least more people in eSports care about me more than they ever cared about the name ESPN. And maybe that's an arrogant thing to say, but like, I think it is already shown, I think it will continue to show that like, people read my work at eSports, or ESPN doesn't matter. If it's, you know, not a big newspaper with a big name or whatever else. Like there's a level of audience that would read my work, but I think the audience people who read my work, because I'm me, it's pretty large. And I think a lot of publications struggle to acknowledge that they like struggle to deal with like, how can an independent journalist have their audience have their own, rather than our big publication name? You see things like substack working because of this, actually, frankly, why people are allowed to just go fully independent like that. Then, you know, charge five or 10 bucks a month because people want to read, THEM definitely, like they feel connected to their people from social media.

Kyle Warren:

Well, yeah, I mean, it's you it's kind of got a kind of funny how the two world like, even though journalism and like content, are in content creation are completely separate. Like we see there's some, there's some very big similarities, like especially in the sports in like, you know, eSports and sports, you know, where, like, in order for people to put eyeballs on eSports they have to know the story like the the people who do this the best is, you know, is H3CZ & Optic and now 100 Thieves. I mean, like, they are such masterful storytellers. And they give you an in-depth look at all these individuals lives, which feel like these their stories going on the COD that have been happening for 12 years, you know,

Jacob Wolf:

Right, yeah

Kyle Warren:

So I think that's a, I mean, I think that's a really cool thing because it's, you know, there is there is a difference, but when you try to mix the two together is when it gets very like

Jacob Wolf:

Murky

Kyle Warren:

and weird.

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, I mean, like, I appreciate what they do. But one company that I'm curious how they'll deal with this is eSports talk. Like Jake is really talented.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah.

Jacob Wolf:

The audience that he's built is quite significant. Yeah. You know, he's been with that company since basically the beginning. But like, there is this line of, and they are hiring people who write for their website that are "journalist." But I would not classify Jake himself, nor that YouTube channel is journalism. And it's this, like, you have to figure out kind of where you're at. And it is a really murky, murky, ethical thing. Like I'm not calling them out, because I think what they do is important, good work. I think a lot of content creation is good work. But it's not journalism. And it's figuring out how you distinctly separate between the two is really hard. And I know a lot of companies are struggling with this. I mean, I saw as an outsider, I see ESPN struggling with this in terms of there are people at ESPN who are big Capital J journalist, and then there are people that are TV, talking heads or like columnists, right who like are just out there, saying kind of whatever. And it's it is hard balance. It's a really hard balance for every company, I think that is in the content and media space.

Kyle Warren:

Well, again, I think it's it goes back to like, and this goes beyond like any job description, any job like what like, it just goes to basic human nature of like this, this rigidity that I think we're softening up a little bit, you know, I mean, like, they're, we're losing, like, we don't really, I think we're starting understand that we don't need to have lines that not everything is going to be the same in one situation versus another. You know, it's

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah.

Kyle Warren:

So I think and that's a very scary place to begin, because it's comfortable for people to have lines coming in, everyone's gonna have their own boundaries, but like, this line of like, you know, what's what's right, and what's not. It's gonna change on a case by case basis. And how do you define that? Right, you know, and I think that's one of the it's, it's another thing that like, you know, I don't think we're gonna be getting there anytime soon. But I think this is one of the biggest starts of that, if you will, you know?

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah. But yeah, we're gone from the point of like, with a select few in this category, we're gone from a point where like, a newspaper can just be a newspaper, right? Like they, they have to broaden their horizons. And we've seen some of them do that quite successfully. I mean, the New York Times has a ton of issues. But simultaneously, they also have the daily which is the most successful podcast in the world. And like they just acquired Cereal, which the Cereal Studio so like, they will continue to push it and something like that, you know, they've done like this Showtime. thing about Drumpf's first 100 days, like I'm sure they'll do something similar with Biden. Like, it's Yeah, they they're having to like, they can't just be a print newspaper for the city of New York. Like they, they have to figure it out. And it.. the companies that are not reinventing quick enough, are the ones that are failing. And the ones who are figuring it out. Yeah, The Washington Post, I feel like is the Times knows what the Times is. I feel like The Post I admire them a lot as a paper because they're not they are owned by a tech, or a tech oriented a guy who made millions in his fortune off of tech. So I think that the ownership perspective, it's a little different. But yeah, like I think that papers like they have the ethics of the Washington Post's literally being the people to break break the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. But they also are adjusting and finding their business. And I've like I root for their success. knowing a lot of people that work there, so yeah, I think it is. It's an interesting time for content at large. I think it's eSports is a subsection of that.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, because we're, we're seeing it. Yeah, sorry, my dogs barking in the background.

Jacob Wolf:

It's all good.

Kyle Warren:

You know, but it's like, it's something that's been on my mind a lot, especially with a lot of the the current issues. This is like, you know, this is and this is a little bit off topic, but I feel like it's a little it's relevant to what we're speaking about is like these companies having personalities, it's like companies taking stances, you know what I mean? And it's the same thing, like, you know, you have the company, and then you have the individuals of the company, you know, and so you have, like, should companies take stances, should they not? You know, like, because there's a lot of things internally that like, should it be exposed should not be? You know, could that ruin some someone's career with cancel culture? whether it's true or not, you know, it's like, there's all these different like, these, these different elements to it. I think it's just a I don't know, man, like, I get divided on that one day. I think that we shouldn't there's other days, I don't think we should, you know, cuz I try to put myself in that perspective. Like, what if it happened to me? And, you know, like, you know, like, what would that look? What would that mean? Ya know, so

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah.

Kyle Warren:

it's good, man. But yeah, that's, uh, honestly, it's, uh, it's probably not for this podcast. One thing I wanted another kind of broader topic I wanted to ask you or something specifically to eSports You know, when it comes to journalism, you know, where like in the in the way information gets disseminated from the source to the audience. You know, are there any other because you have journalism, but What are the rules of media depend on journalism for their own livelihood or their own content?

Jacob Wolf:

Um, I would say it's even bigger than just content. I mean, think about like, what would financial trading look like without like Bloomberg? Right? Like Bloomberg is journalism, but they have a journalistic arm, but they're educating people on how to trade. Right. Like, it's it's a necessary thing. Same with like Barron's and some of the other financial publications that are even more relevant in the GameStop era to a much larger audience this past week, we can have,

Kyle Warren:

yeah yeah!

Jacob Wolf:

But I like, I think that there's so much like, for eSports business journalism alone, like there are investors out there that I know, because they read my work. Right? Like, they're like trying to educate on like, where they should move their money, right, where they should put their money. Um, I think it's important to because like, if someone gets exposed or doing something corrupt or abusive, or whatever else, like ad speaks to, like, it's important for people who are trying to figure out who they want to work for, right, like assessing the professional opportunity, like, do you want to work for an environment that is abuse, or in an environment that's abusive and toxic? Probably not. So like, that's a I think that there's a lot that relies on turtles with like journalism, super important. And that's always what I tried to like, educate, you know, so much of my job now, and I don't want to take all the credit for this. But I did have so many of these conversations early in my career, like journalism, and eSports. And games as a whole is super controversial. Like, I look at someone like Jason Schreier. And what he's doing right now, Bloomberg, when he was doing it Kotaku before, and I admire the hell out of it, even though like he doesn't cover eSports, he covers games at large, because he's like, he's breaking down some walls, like he's persona non grata at a lot of these at a lot of these publishers and game developers, but good for him, because like, he should be the standard, right? Like, there's a level of like MEDIA EDUCATION that exists in politics, or sports or whatever else, these more developed longer interests and topics and industries. I took a different approach. And I think it's benefited my career for doing so. Rather than poo flinging them on social media, which I did do at times, I would try to seek these people out in person, have an off the record conversation, try to reason with them. Right. explain to them why I believe this is important. Right, like highlight to them how it could while certainly it can be detrimental to their business, it has opportunities to also be beneficial to their business, right. It's a it's a push and pull. And I think I have succeeded in that. I think that there are LCS and LEC executives who are better because we have had those conversations, and how did they treat all media, not just me. But God knows it took a lot of time. And it took a lot of very awkward and uncomfortable conversations to get there. Journalism is necessary. It is a necessary good in my opinion. I don't like the word necessary evil, but it is a controversial thing in games and eSports at large. But I'm constantly trying to have those conversations and we've also seen like what it means to be an esports executive at the highest level right now, like a lot of these people have worked in other industries before they come in, LOL, media, hollywood, whatever else it may be, investments, so they understand the media a lot more than some of their predecessors. But some of the most powerful people in esports are people who have literally been in nothing else and have been there the whole time, their the old garden. But yeah, it's hard to convince some of those people why it's important, but like I try, I seek them out to have those conversations. Pre-Covid, I would always make a habit of seeing these people in LA and grabbing off the record lunch or drink or whatever else and really dive into that. And I think it's important, and I hope that I encourage and and encouraging other journalists to do the same for themselves. But I try to be pretty broad in the strokes that I paint to, to these people.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah, I mean, that's I mean, everyone brings a fantastic point cuz it's like you're not always covering you know, everyone wants to portray some sort of imagem like, you know, your your job is to portray the image is to portray, like the truth, you know. And so it's natural to, I'm sure get some of that feedback, my dog is losing it. You know, but I think it also goes to the fact that, like, what you're doing is incredible work. And also you're not going to change the world, like in tomorrow. I mean, like conversation, regardless of what and I think it's a very important thing today is like, change is not fast, regardless of what the topic is. And the deeper root of the issue, you know, the longer it's gonna take to change, you know, and I think it, it starts with, like this, like, education and convincing piece of just like, you know, like saying, Hey, man, like, here's the problem, here's a potential solution. And here's, like, what it could do for you, you know, and I think people aren't gonna be interested unless they know what's in it for them. You know? So, I think that's fantastic, man, you know, and it's, it highlights a lot of the importance of that, you know, and want to, I'm sorry, my dog got me. So off topic here. But I want to I want to reverse want to do a little bit more personal, you know, deep dive into you. is, you know, like, when you're, I mean, you mentioned 23. And I mean, for someone of your reputation status, like honestly, when you told me that initially, I was shocked, like, I'm just like, holy shit, like, that's what a what an incredible career and you're like, You're not even 25 you and lived a quarter of a century. You know, like, one thing that brought one thing that really grabbed me in that taught and that enlight talk was said your beat found you you know, like when it's so when it when you got into the industry, you're like, how did that? What do you mean by that? You know what I mean? Like, like, what do you like? How did how did how did that? How did the whole process work?

Jacob Wolf:

Sure. So I mean, I like so many people my age, I grew up a gamer. You know, earliest memories, for me, were like getting a Gameboy Advance on Christmas, one year getting an Xbox on Christmas, the following. And it was such a big part of my life. Like I tried to crack at YouTube. And it's early days, when like Machinima around the Machinima Respawn were really big back in back in the day and like, submitting videos to them, and I could just never really break in. Like, I like had a channel and of me doing like, let's plays and stuff and it like it was fine. Like, I did some freelance editing for some people and made some money as a young teenager, but like, I could never really give a crack at it. I did some work in the music industry. ran a few a couple different record labels as a teenager ran a management company, which is certainly abnormal, but like, I am thankful because like, I made a ton of

Kyle Warren:

Yeah! mistakes, ton of mistakes, but did some really awful things. But I did them in a in a environment where like, Yes, I regret them now. But I also learned from them, right? People do terrible things. And they grow. Yeah. If they're good people, in the end, right? Like if they really want to get through it and grow and be better. So I am not a saint. And my life has not been all great. But the things that I did, like, I learned from them, and I moved on. And while I was in the music industry, someone that was working for me, one of the labels that I ran was a guy who was super into League of Legends, and I had been primarily into like Call of Duty, and Halo and a few other things. And had watched online Call of Duty competitions because some of the people I would play against on ladder back in the original MLG days where these pros sorry, the more veteran guys Scump, Crimsix Clayster etc. And it's funny because I cover them now and the occasional time they'll remember me or remember the username. Yeah.

Jacob Wolf:

But yeah, they I like was too young to do what they ended up doing. You know, they were probably they're like, most of them are four, three or four years my senior which is a big difference being 13 and being 16 or being 14 and being 17. But, um, you know, like I was super engaged with that and that community and people like NadeShot and H3CZ and Hitch and Seananners etc, kind of that group of people, but I like just was too young to break in and as a pro and too young to break and really as content creator. So I got into League of Legends in 2012 through this guy that was working for me at my record level and we are still very close friends me and him and but we he started getting me into league and I like played and I played a little bit before in beta but didn't really like it and I feel like league back then in particular. It was a game you didn't get into unless you had friends that did it. It was a jarring experience to play alone. And the original days but one friend. Yeah, it is. I think it's overwhelming now more than it is jarring.

Kyle Warren:

Gotcha

Jacob Wolf:

I said in the beginning it was jarring because it was just abnormal. But back then, it was, it was Yeah. It was better to get in with friends. I got in to it with him. And I watched the season two world championship that year. And I was like, Wow, this is Awesome! I was super sure they had it in LA at the Galen center USC. And it's funny because I've interviewed right people about that. And they're like, that was their "it" moment. And I was having the same "it" moment. But at home. Yeah, my couch as a 15 year old. Oh, yeah. Yeah, while they were working the event, um.. and uh.... And that was when I like knew this was the thing that I was really interested and passionate about doing. But I was still 15. And I just couldn't. So I, without the intent of Esports more the intent of just frustration, I have a lot of family background that made me want to grow up a lot faster. And

Kyle Warren:

Gotcha.

Jacob Wolf:

The trauma is a good motivator for me, I'll put it that way. And I wanted to get out of high school as quickly as possible. I wanted to go to college thinking that that would fix my desire to move on in life, It didn't. So like at 15. in ninth grade, I went to my counselor, a school counselor and was like, I want to accelerate my time here Get out. I was in this weird position of like, I wasn't like, super popular, but I also wasn't like, bullied or really anything I was in this like middle like I was friends with the popular people. I was friends with the bullied people, but not either myself. And kind of distance myself because I just didn't care about social activities other than sports. And so I created a path, first person in my my county to do this where I would basically graduate at 16. So I would do an extra semester in between 10th and 11th grade and then I'd be done. I would go.. I would do 11th and 12th grade fully in college, I fully dual enrolled, which was only an option ever to 12th graders. So I did a full extra year early and and then I like go straight into be two years out in college math. During that period, at 17, I started wanting to write about eSports after the Season 4 World Championship, which was another kind of like a turning point moment of like the that's the Imagine Dragons South Korea Olympics at a mirror. And I was just like Jesus, like I want to be a part of this. And so I had been reading Thorin and Richard Lewis and Kelsey Moser and Emily Rand and DRX , I added DRX on Twitter and was like I had like to write for eSports heaven because I I actually called in to Richard Lewis's talk show. And he followed me on twitter after that. And I asked him where I should write and he directed me that way. And so I added DRX, volunteered for free for a few months. And some of those like extroverted business skills that I learned in music, I started just applied to eSports networking with people adding people on Facebook at the time, getting to know them and information started to come my way. And that's how I beat found me because I was a writer who, by a natural sort of networking, interest started to get information that other people did not have. And it happened really fast. I think my first report was big report was probably two months into me writing

Kyle Warren:

Wow,

Jacob Wolf:

I had no clue what I was doing. And, but like, five months in, I got my first contract gig at The Daily Dot and that was like, and Kevin Morris, who's my boss now and my boss at the time really helped me hone what I had very raw talent into something that was good. And a year there got me to ESPN. So like I grew really fast, far faster than most people and five, I guess four or five months into working it the Daily Dot out like that summer I had made the bet was my mom that like if I could make this a livable thing and up my hours enough to make a livable wage, like I dropped out of college and do this full time. And I did. And so I it's weird to be 23 years old and have six years of work experience. But I didn't and it's been a really accelerated life path.

Kyle Warren:

That's it That's it. You know, you touched on a couple good points man that I that I don't think a lot of people in our I guess you call it demographic or age age range standards or like, you know, this path that it that's like coming into eSports where it's just like, what i what i heard in the very beginning story is you worked for months for free. Nobody is willing to do that these days. Everyone wants like the lifestyle of like this. Whether it's their passion job or their dream job or their whatever, whatever the case may be, but like no one is that's a that's one of the most important pieces. I don't think anyone like if you're not willing to do that, then then your your passion is misguided. You know? Yeah. .

Jacob Wolf:

Like, I don't like, I always try to we have some writers that who this is their first time freelancing for anything ever writing? Yeah, or like they're in J school. And they're doing this kind of on the side and learning on the job, but also educating themselves in we do pay them like, we don't have anybody that writes for free. We have a pretty standard freelancer, you may not be allowed in some cases, but it's something Yeah, I think working for free, is fine. If you can do it, I think many people cannot.I was fortunate I was living at home, didn't have to worry about expenses. I was in college, I could do this on the side, right. And so I didn't need the money. I think some people like they need it to actually live and put food on the table. So but you know, I think if you're able to, you have to prove to people your value. Really, ultimately, if you can make 20 bucks an article or 30 bucks an article while doing that, sure. Like I did have some freelance stuff, where I made like $500 on like, because I freelance for a cheap entity and The Score and I mean, $500 an article because it was a per view thing with cheap entity. So I literally kept it. Thank you Reddit for making me 500 bucks an article. And then I made like 200 bucks an article off The Score for writing for them once and then got like a flat stipend while working on the first time, that increase based off hours. And yeah, so like, it's a balance, right? Because there are plenty of people that will take advantage of you if you work for free.

Kyle Warren:

Sure.

Jacob Wolf:

But also like you kind of have to prove that you have worth, I will always remember I had an executive at eSports Heaven, when I got my Dot offer, I had a lot of loyalty to eSports Heaven, I was like ascending into like, kind of what I do now is helping like rebuild part of the site and all these other things. And he essentially, like flat out told me, you'll never be worth more than $500 a month. And I will always remember that. Because not only did Dot end up paying me more than $500 a month when I took that job, but like, I made more than $500 a month now. And it also always remembers, I will always remember somebody telling me that because they were he was used to taking advantage of people for free. And I got the experience I needed and then found what was next. But yeah, it is a balance. Don't let people take advantage of you. But also you have to prove your worth.

Kyle Warren:

But again, goes back to that, like, you know, like, like, there's there's no there's no like one way like there's no one size fits all, you know, I mean, it's like, yeah, like, and so I think where I was more coming from is like, you know, coming from my perspective from someone who helps people, I was a business coach, you know, essentially for the past three years. And it's like, so many people, like want to just give up everything and go all in on a business. And it's just like, when you have no business experience. It's just not practical. You know, I mean, so that's kind of where I'm, where I'm coming from is like, okay, you hate your job. Great. A lot of people do, you know, but you still are living off of it. Right? You still have you can pay a wage, and there's ways to grow into that. And so I think that's kind of where more I was coming from versus like that. The common like, I'm gonna quit my job and go in, you know, in? No, no, and I can't tell you how many people, you know, without telling me they did that. That's exactly what they did. And after the first phone call when I brought some very big realities to their doorstep, never heard from them again. You know?

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, I mean, I think I'm working on some stuff outside of my current job, and worked on some stuff outside of my ESPN job when I had it. And like, I worked more than 40 hours a week, like I would do the 40 hour a week that I needed to do at my actual job. And then the committed hours, weekends, evenings, etc. Like I'd stay up and do what else I needed to do. Like do it that way like it and if you can't, I'll put it this way. If you can't bring yourself to do this extra hours for what you're passionate about. You're probably not really that passionate about it, frankly. Yeah, right. Like it. Yeah, does it suck? Sure. But like if you want to build a if you want to switch careers, and you want to jump into something else and actually make money off of it, you probably need to be doing it on your off hours to start a build that that path that you want to walk ever getting at least.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah, yeah. And I'll tell you, it's an exhilarating thought to like, just leave everything you don't mean like everyone, everyone Oh,

Jacob Wolf:

Oh,yeah.

Kyle Warren:

I can't.

Jacob Wolf:

But it's not practical, you're right.

Kyle Warren:

It's not practical at all. You know, there's some people that can do it. But what you don't know is that they've ran three to four businesses in their past or they have real experience and real connections. And they just are they

Jacob Wolf:

Yeah, exactly. They have the investor that will front front to keep them afloat.

Kyle Warren:

Right.

Jacob Wolf:

Right. Like that's, that's the difference.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah, man. Yeah. So I want to I want to start wanna start wrapping things up a bit here. You know, I know one of your especially in the role that you're in, you know, you've had like, six years of work experience and in a very brand new industry that's still honestly In my opinion, still, you know, in its infancy, and when Your roles are one of your, from what I hear is a passion is like, you know, being able to help, you know these up and coming journalists like get to either position where you're hired to help grow the industry as a whole. You know, what are a few things that when you first started in here that you wish you would have heard from someone in your position?

Jacob Wolf:

I'm fortunate that in like four months. And I ended up working with Kevin, who, even when I were to ESPN, Is still considered one of the best editors in the industry. I mean, his background is not an Esports. Again, another one of those people that transition into the industry. I mean, he's been doing eSports now for seven years, eight years, but he's also his older and his a lot of life experience for today VC before that taught in college, he has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse, right, like, checks the boxes of traditional journalist pre-eSports. So I, I got some blunt realities, myself, my first year of this, I still got blunt realities now, but I got a lot of them my first year of working for him in 2015. But I think the big thing, something that I in a piece of advice I always try to pass is don't make this transactional. So many less experienced journalists are transactional, whether that be like I call someone I need information, I get a press release, I write a write like it. This is a industry because so many people in games are used to like I call them vultures, or people who swipe in and taken take the money and run, right like they're so used to people leeching off of their thing. And they're also have so many people that work in games have the trauma of being the bullied kid for being a gamer in school, right? Like if you're old enough, you probably have that experience. And so they are really hypersensitive to people that they perceive as swooping in and taking. If you are able to have that relationship of, you know, being able to help them when they need it or being able to like I'm not saying pay anyone for anything, because that's super unethical. But in terms of like, somebody some information or something that you can give to them without breaking your ethics, your standards, like do it. You know, like, it sounds stupid. And it's sometimes it can be like Happy Happy Birthday text, or congratulation texts on an engagement or a baby or whatever else like that means something to people like life advice means something to people and none of that's breaking your ethics or, or standards. Like that's just being a human being. And people will appreciate it. And they'll remember that you did that thing for them. And in turn, right like don't do it with the intent of eventually milking it, just do it. Because you want to be a good person. But people it goes a long way for people when you're genuine. And that like, has been so beneficial to me in my career. I wish I would have known that earlier. Because for the first year of my career taker, I was really transactional. And it works sometimes what I could have, could have grown even more than I did faster than I did with better sources and a bit bigger network. I am fortunate The biggest thing that I will thank is right place right time for me, I got into eSports before all the millionaires and billionaires showed up by about a year it was about a year early to the to before that happened before it started. So those the people that I did build relationships with went to work for those millionaires and billionaires. And so now those billionaires and millionaires are in my phones, my contacts and are one text away because I like got vouched for by the people that now work for them. But we're a top the industry at the time. Um, you can't do that anymore as a as a less experienced journalist, because those people do run the industry. But like, if you behave appropriately, and you are a human being, I still tend to think those people open up to you also, because I know other journalists who had the same sources as me, not because they've told me but because like, the person that I'm talking to is like, Oh, I'd also talked to this person. I'm like, Uh huh, like, Yeah, but I also know that the how those people operate and that they are not, you know, transactional nature of their relationships. So I think that's super important. I think it's, it would have been harder for me to break in now than it was then. But I don't think it's impossible. Now. I think it just takes a little bit more work. And it takes different type of work done than it did back then for me.

Kyle Warren:

Yeah. 100%, man, no, I think that's fantastic. And, you know, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your time with me today. This has been this has been awesome. And so if people aren't following you, where are you the most active where can they find you?

Jacob Wolf:

most active on Twitter for sure. It's just @JacobWolf. really short, simple and sweet. www.dotesports.com is our publication. I'm going to be publishing less volume, I think this year than I have ever before. But I hope that people will take away that it's all really important work and stuff that I'm really passionate about writing. So yeah, I would say those are the two places that are most important. And I'm an easy to contact person if anybody needs to.

Kyle Warren:

Cool, man, hey Jacob, again really appreciate your time. I hope you have a great rest your day.

Jacob Wolf:

You too.

Jacob Wolf

Guest

Chief Reporter & Investigative Lead at DotEsports • Formerly: ESPN, School of NYTimes • EsportsAwards 2018 Journalist of the Year