Morning folks! I don't really want to talk more about why I haven't written about the whole PS3 contest/Wainwright thing (I think I made that pretty clear!) but I do want to pop in and address a couple more issues that you guys have been discussing.
I can't speak for any website or any other person, nor was I around during the 80s/90s/early 2000s when apparently things were much different than they are now, but I can give you some thoughts from my personal experiences working as a journalist in this field.
- There are a lot of problems in game journalism, but as my boss pointed out recently, it'd be disingenuous to suggest that those problems are EXCLUSIVE to game journalism. Did any of you watch the Apple press conference the other day? It was painful to watch that crowd (presumably filled with journalists) hoot and holler for products like they were at the Super Bowl. Even E3's press conferences (at least the recent ones) aren't that bad.
And then there are issues like this: http://gizmodo.com/5953355/how-i-foo...nexus-was-real
And this: http://deadspin.com/5954279/the-best...ter-douche-bag
Point is, many of the issues you all have pointed out in this thread are issues that people face in all fields of journalism, not just gaming. You should hear about some of the press junkets that film journalists take!
- Advertisements! Is it a conflict of interest to advertise for video games on a video game website? I don't know. But I can tell you that in my time at Kotaku, I don't think I've ever even interacted with the folks in advertising. I know nothing about how we pick ads, who picks them, how much they pay, or what sort of things advertisers are saying to my company. It just has nothing to do with the editorial team. So it's hard for me to agree that gaming ads are a problem, because they have so little to do with how I work. We get a lot of criticism - some valid, some less valid - but I think Kotaku has done an excellent job of proving that fear of publisher/advertiser backlash has never, ever stopped us from running a story.
- Ethics in journalism, I've learned over the years, is all about levels, boundaries, and compromises. Sometimes those levels are dictated by the companies we work for; other times we have to figure them out on our own.
I see some things as okay that others might not. I have no problem taking video games from publishers, for example. The more games I get, the more I can play, and the more games I can play, the more my readers benefit from what I can write about them. I also have no problem taking a chicken kabob or water bottle at a publisher-run press event. To me, that's just a courtesy, like how I might offer a cup of coffee to guests in my office. And if I'm spending eight hours at a big press event, it's nice to be able to eat something.
But I don't take gifts from companies I cover (and when they do send me things, I usually throw them out or give them away). I won't wear t-shirts or bags or anything else with a video game or game company's brand/name. I've never let a game publisher pay for my travel, hotel, or any other expenses. If I go out to an expensive meal with friends in development or PR, I try to pay for myself. Those are my personal guidelines, and I don't want to impose them upon anyone else or tell anyone else how to live their lives, but I think it's important to be transparent about this sort of stuff.
(I've also been very fortunate to work under some smart, super-talented editors like Stephen Totilo and Chris Kohler, both of whom have very strict ethical guidelines and have taught me a great deal about all of this stuff.)
- The topic of PR-journalist relationships is quite an interesting one. I disagree with some of you in that I think it's perfectly okay for journalists and PR people to have cordial, friendly relationships. I also think there are levels: being casual acquaintances with someone is different than being good friends with someone which is different than getting married to someone. But it's futile to pretend we're at war. Journalists and PR people have totally different goals, but we have to work together, even when we all just want to strangle one another.
Like the ethical issues I mentioned above, this sort of thing is all about setting your own strict personal boundaries and guidelines. I've never felt like being friendly with PR folk has affected the way I do my job, and all the good PR people understand that journalists want to be as fair and as honest as possible when covering their companies. If I ever felt like I was writing or covering a story differently because of a friendship with someone in the industry, I might reconsider this approach, but I've never had that experience.
- Let's talk about swag. Swag is a pain in the ass. Again, I can't speak for other people in journalism, but I can tell you that the giant limited editions and press kits I get are more trouble than they're worth. I want games, and I want to play as many games as possible (so I can better serve my readers) - all the other crap is usually just going in the trash bin. Maybe this stuff has some sort of subtle influence on me that I don't even know about, but I'd never even wear a t-shirt with a video game's name on it, let alone fill my apartment with flags or posters or whatever else companies are sending. I'm just not interested in any of that stuff.
- The idea of games journalist as a stepping stone to other parts of the industry bothers me, and it's never really something that I've wanted to do. I do this because I love writing and reporting and telling interesting stories, not because I want to work in the video game industry.
But we all need to eat. And it's tough to condemn someone for taking a job under any circumstances - everyone has their own personal/financial situations, and not everyone has that many options.
OK, I'll cut this post off before it gets too much further into tl;dr territory. If you've got any questions about any of this - or about my personal stances and experiences - feel free to let me know!