When Hernandez left Kotaku to become a senior editor at Polygon in 2018, former Kotaku editor in chief Stephen Totilo, whom Hernandez will succeed, wrote that she “came out of nowhere, not even finished yet with college when she was already tearing it up at Kotaku as a freelancer. What a joy it was to see what she was capable of. Quiet and unassuming, yet brilliant and bold, she’d tell head-swiveling stories about censored sex games on Steam, about wild storm-wracked Smash Bros. tournaments, and about school kids driving their teachers to the brink with their ‘Fortnite’ obsessions.”
Hernandez did not respond to a request for comment.
Jim Rich, editorial director Kotaku’s parent company G/O Media, confirmed the hire, saying management began speaking to Hernandez after receiving several recommendations.
“We’re excited to have Patricia come back to Kotaku. She was here for a time and went on to do some really great work,” Rich said when reached on the phone Thursday. “I’m confident that she is going to lead the team to similar type of work and move the site, which by the way, is pretty iconic in the gaming space, take it to the next level in the site’s evolution.”
Rich added, “She’s an incredibly accomplished journalist in this space. … She’s held some pretty significant positions at several different sites. She started her own website earlier in her career.”
After her initial stint at Kotaku, Hernandez was hired by The Verge’s culture editor at the time, Laura Hudson, as a culture reporter. Some of her articles included features like “The Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one” and “YouTube is failing its creators.” She then moved to Polygon, where she has worked for the past two years and was recently promoted to culture editor, overseeing reporters on Internet culture reports and features, while continuing to report news.
“Patricia is an incredible talent,” said Totilo, who now covers games at Axios, when contacted Thursday. “In her first run at Kotaku she did nothing less than change the way video games are covered. She recognized that what happens in gaming communities and what happens after games come out is as interesting — or more interesting — than all the hype that precedes a new release. Kotaku has an incredible team right now, and with a pioneer like Patricia at the helm, I’m excited to see what the site does next.”
Hernandez takes over Kotaku following a series of high-level departures from the site. Totilo, and well-known reporters Jason Schreier, Heather Alexandra, Gita Jackson, Cecilia D’Anastasio and others departed over the past two years. Totilo and Schreier cited what happened to Deadspin, a sports site also owned by G/O Media, in 2019 as a key reason for their departures.
Deadspin saw a mass exodus that year after management ordered employees to “stick to sports,” which angered journalists on staff who had cultivated a reputation for cultural reporting and expressive opinions. They argued it would betray the online community they had built.
Later on Thursday night, Hernandez tweeted a tacit acknowledgement of the news and a thank you to the interim editor-in-chief, Riley MacLeod, “I don’t think folks realize how much work, compassion and patience [Riley] has exhibited over the last few months, not just keeping Kotaku up and running, but thriving amid turmoil and uncertainty," she wrote in the Tweet. “The man has been working multiple jobs this entire time, leading and writing.”
She added, “Media is a brutal place. Folks like Riley give orgs a much-needed sense of humanity and hope. If there is anything for me to inherit it’s because Riley kept it intact.”