The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story
Game Journalists on Game Journalism

Michael Zenke | 14 Nov 2006 07:00
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TE: Many journalists, regardless of their field, feel the pressure of conflicts of interest. How hard do you work to avoid developer/publisher/PR interests from conflicting with those of your news organ?

Brandon Sheffield: Pretty hard. In the interest of maintaining that, I won't go into details, but we do our best to make sure that nothing we get from developers is overly filtered. One example I can give is that when doing interviews with Japanese speakers, I'll go back after the fact and retranslate a close approximation of the speaker's own words. PR or translators can often cut out choice bits of information in the interest of shifting a discussion in a certain direction.

Chris Morris: Personally, I work pretty hard at it. (And I have CNN's Standards and Practices team backstopping me and I certainly don't want to incur their wrath.) I don't let any gaming outlet (developer, publisher, trade organization, etc.) pay for my travel or room. When my company declines to pay the way - and I feel it's important - I pay out of pocket. I don't accept fees for speaking at industry events. It's pretty basic stuff.

Simon Carless: As I was discussing on GameSetWatch recently, we do, on occasion, accept the odd cupcake and can of Red Bull from people like Sony when attending its Gamer's Day, but I'm confident that we are adult enough to present a fair depiction of the PlayStation 3, despite the caffeine boost.

David Thomas: I try so hard on this subject that I can measure my success each year by the number of PR people who wont return my calls. ... We are all tainted. We have all sold out. We all will (or did) write about the PS3 launch as if it were news. ... It seems to me that conflict of interest is built into the job. And as long as we have to play nice to get review hardware or games, we'll be as big a sellout as those movie reviewers who always seem to have thumbs-up quotes on the ads for movies we would not [pay] money to go see. A snarky blog post here or there isn't enough to balance out all the free s---. We can pretend that we are not in the pocket of the big companies. But we cover an industry rather than an art form.

TE: Blogs are increasingly becoming the news outlet of choice for hardcore gamers. How do you think this shift is affecting more traditional online news outlets and print magazines?

Brian Crecente: In general, I think blogging scares print publications. But I do think that the gaming press is more able to quickly respond to that threat by changing their writing and reporting style, something I believe we've already started to see.

Chris Grant: I think there are two sides to this relationship. First, I think it's undeniable that the growth of blogs has come at the expense of some of the larger portal sites and magazines. Readers have become dissatisfied with their content and presentation and find blogs a more palatable, savvy and syndicated alternative. Of course, this isn't relegated to the gaming industry; it's a phenomenon happening all over the web. On the other hand, there's a symbiotic nature. Often, we'll rely on the larger sites and magazines to score their exclusives or use their considerable clout to get responses from major players, which we'll link and add to the growing conversation in the blog space. Similarly, we find they read our site daily, and the stories we turn up often reappear as features on the portal sites or the magazines weeks, if not months, later.

David Thomas: Shift? Hey, the war's over. Like those crazy Japanese soldiers they found on isolated Pacific Islands years after WWII, just waiting, still defending their position, print hangs in there as if there was still a victory on the horizon. Bulls---. I'm more or less a print guy, but I can smell death all around me. And as far as game journalism goes, the only reason I still have a job is that most people don't read the game sites.

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