By now, many of you know that PokerNews contributor Marty Derbyshire has been terminated from his position due to an article published on Thanksgiving Day. While there have been calls for his termination for months, his unsubstantiated comments about the poker community as a whole were the straw that broke the camel’s back.
So what exactly happened here and what can the poker media and even the general poker public learn from what transpired. Also, does Marty Derbyshire have a future in the poker media?
How Far is Too Far?
Many of us in the poker media have either by choice or by assignment been forced to take a controversial stance when it comes to poker or someone in the game. Our opinions are not always popular, and that is OK.
However, there are certain lines that one really should not cross both for the sake of one’s career and for the sake of the company. I can remember multiple instances in the past where I have been asked to either change or tone down a position because it may come across as overly harsh or downright offensive.
With that said, I could have backed up every one of those instances with facts or direct quotes to support my position. Seldom have I made a claim that was so blatantly wrong that even the laziest of poker writers could rebutt me in a few minutes.
In all honesty, that’s how I felt after the Derbyshire article that got him fired. He took controversy to a point where it went over a line. While some have an opinion that online poker players are lazy and contribute nothing to society, there’s overwhelming evidence to show otherwise.
Does the Media Now Have to Fear Poker Pros Calling for their Heads?
I was notified of a piece by Lee Davy just a couple of minutes before writing this section, and he and I share a similar view. Over the summer when Joe McKeehen and various other pros started calling for the head of Marty Derbyshire, I became a bit concerned that this could start to become a trend in the game.
However, I initially dismissed this due to the fact that McKeehen had been speaking out against the media for a while. Then when Derbyshire put out other pieces that weren’t well received, the outcry continued. Soon it was apparent that the hatred was directed primarily towards him.
But does Derbyshire’s ousting set a precedent for the industry? I don’t believe so. Davy made a great point stating, “A company were going to fire me for holding an opinion I would have received my marching orders a long time ago. Instead, I view the Derbyshire incident as a lesson learned for all writers as to how far to push opinion into the realms of click bait propaganda.”
Exactly. We are all going to have opinions that are not going to be popular. However, that doesn’t mean that we push the matter to the extreme and publish anything we want with the goal of getting clicks. If I wanted to do that, I’d start writing click bait articles about pop culture for $10 a pop.
@MatthewParvis the article was only published by "mistake"after the negative response..boycotting ur content till you fire this guy— Jared Jaffee (@jaredjaffee21) November 25, 2016
That’s not to say that we won’t see similar happen in the future. However, if a poker media member decides to post articles openly bashing pros and making ludicrous statements and unsubstantiated remarks about the poker population as a whole, then maybe they deserve the outrage.
Editors Play a Vital Role in Protecting Brand and Writer Integrity
Something that some writers, myself included, often forget is that the job of the editor is not merely to proofread a piece but also to protect the integrity of the site and even the writers published on the site.
I can think of many times I have had an article idea rejected simply because the idea may be too controversial for the site or may negatively impact the company. Even a piece that is accurate in fact may still bring negative consequences to everyone involved.
.@MatthewParvis— Daniel Dvoress (@DDvoress) November 25, 2016
What does mistakenly published mean? Like someone misslick posted the article? PN employs a person with those views, Y/N?
Part of the job of the editor is to balance the risk. Most of the time, editors succeed in finding the right balance. Other times you have a piece that goes viral for all of the wrong reasons.
Some people believe that Matthew Parvis should also be fired from his position at PokerNews for allowing Derbyshire’s articles to be published. With the exception of the Thanksgiving Day article, it seems that Parvis and company decided that the risk was balanced enough with the other pieces to allow them to go live.
@MartyDerby Your controversial opinions were never a secret and they were fine until they weren't. This is just weak editorial leadership…— Alexander Villegas (@AlexRamiroV) November 29, 2016
Note that I am not saying that I agree with the pieces but rather that I understand his thinking. However, Derbyshire continued to push the issues and Parvis had to make a choice for the sake of the company and to a lesser extent try and salvage what’s left of Derbyshire’s career and reputation after this recent blunder.
Writers Sometimes Need to Switch Gears
At some point, writers are going to get in trouble for something that they have written. Sometimes it is an honest mistake and other times it is an opinion that rubs people the wrong way. How a writer moves forward from this mistake has an impact on their reputation as a whole.
In the case of Marty Derbyshire, one has to wonder how things would have turned out if he chose to tone down the rhetoric following his initial piece that sparked the public outcry for his head on a platter.
After his article that many felt blasted Cate Hall, a prudent course of action would have been to apologize, back off and focus on other articles. Stay away from controversial opinions for a time and prove that you have something else to offer to the community.
However, that didn’t happen. Derbyshire continued to write controversial pieces that he later admitted were done more for clicks than for the sake of contributing to the poker world. In the end, PokerNews was forced to let him go after the Thanksgiving Day fiasco.
@MatthewParvis That article may not reflect the views of PokerNews, but they clearly reflect the views of one of your lead opinion writers.— BJ Nemeth (@BJNemeth) November 25, 2016
In poker, players are often forced to switch gears or change strategies in order to get deep and win poker tournaments. The same type of skill applies to everyday life. Derbyshire could have changed his course, laid low so to speak and eventually came out with a bruised reputation rather than one that’s been destroyed.
Can Derbyshire Move Forward in Poker?
I know that this next opinion will not be a popular one, but yes, Derbyshire can move forward as part of the poker media despite this recent incident. It won’t be an easy path for him if he chooses to do so.
There have been some that have already come out and spoken positive things about Derbyshire’s work in the past. As such, I can see a company bringing Derbyshire on board at some point in the future.
@MartyDerby (2/2) He worked long hours, did a great job, was a class act and a good guy. He's done many positive things for poker as well— Bryan Mileski (@BryanMileski) November 29, 2016
Now, what type of role he will have to take remains to be seen. He may be forced to take a step back from the type of writing that got him into this mess. Perhaps he will take on a role as a tournament reporter or a reporter for a lesser known site.
Regardless of where he lands, Derbyshire will be under a microscope not just from the general public but also from the company that uses him.
Poker is very similar to major sports leagues like the NFL. Derbyshire didn’t commit a major crime nor did he cheat at poker. He made unreasonable statements and some offensive statements that pissed off the wrong people.
Didn’t we just elect a President that did similar? If Donald Trump can be President of the United States, then Marty Derbyshire can work again in poker.