Journalistic Integrity from an Average Gamer’s Perspective
Corruption seems to permeate every industry, and today some of my biggest fears came to fruition: games journalists admitted to – and defended – promoting video games to win free stuff. I take this issue to heart, not because I’m a games journalist, but because I’m a regular gamer wanting to trust what I read and who I read, and I use this information to make decisions about which games I buy and play. This isn’t about people getting perks because they’re in the industry; this is an issue of integrity.
How am I supposed to trust a journalist when they’ve accepted freebies from game companies, or try to get free things by promoting a product? And no, I don’t count a game for review a freebie; I fully believe that games should be given for review purposes. The obvious answer is I can’t trust them, not anymore. “So what if you don’t trust me, I don’t care!” perhaps they’ll say. I’m your readership; you write so I can read it, plain and simple. When the readership doesn’t trust the writer, the writer’s words are meaningless; site traffic goes down, and a black mark is put on that writer in the eyes of gamers. At least, in this gamer’s eyes.
See, I work in the healthcare industry. I work in an environment where drug representatives are constantly present, persistently trying to sell, sell, sell. And I’ve seen the healthcare professionals I work with accept luxurious items without batting an eye, and I’ve made a mental note: I’m never having them check on my health or prescribe me any sort of medication. These same healthcare professionals consistently prescribe medications that may or may not work, and it’s always from the drug companies that bring catered lunches or hand out free items. This isn’t the norm, honestly; please don’t take away from this that doctors are corrupt, merely puppets controlled by pharmaceutical companies. I’ve just seen it first-hand is all, the corruption; and I’ve wondered how long ago it started, and if the doctor’s intentions were to be this way, or did it happen gradually without them fully realizing it.
My personal boss, a man who’s been in the healthcare industry for over half a century, is one of the most honest, well-respected doctor’s I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He doesn’t allow any staff member to take anything, even a pen, from a drug representative. He understands that this course of action will only serve to diminish a doctor’s integrity; and certainly he’s in it for his patients, not for the perks. This is how it should be in the healthcare industry, and this is how it has to be in games journalism.
Integrity is tantamount to a respected opinion, whether that of a healthcare professional or a games journalist, and anything that skews that perception – like taking freebies or endorsing products meant to be reviewed unbiased – is, quite obviously, a bad decision.
It boggles my mind that there’s any question as to what is expected of games journalists, as if gamers and readers are simply going to brush it aside and say, “It’s just part of the job, a perk.” This type of thinking will only play into the hands of the companies trying to corrupt these journalists; it’s like us saying, “Okay, we’ll turn our backs while you do your business.” Stand up against it. Let journalists know this isn’t okay and it won’t be tolerated; call them out on it, even.
I’ve read two outstanding pieces on the issue just today: one from John Walker; and one from Robert Florence. Both of them stand up to what’s going on, calling people out on their actions and ridiculous defenses of those actions. These are two people that I can trust; they have integrity. Although Florence specifically says he’s a writer, not a journalist, I still admire his ability to cut through the muck. I’ve read similar things from other game journalists, and I’ve always admired their honesty. It would be really easy for any journalist to simply pick up the freebie and keep it hush-hush. Who would know? Certainly not their readership.
If your hopes and dreams mean becoming a games journalist, please don’t allow other journalists to tell you that it’s okay, nobody will find out; or that it’s just part of the job. It isn’t. Don’t let them fool you, and don’t fool yourself. I want to read from journalists with integrity.
Be honest with your readers. They’ll respect you more than you know, and probably more than you’ll hear from the outspoken cries of paid puppets bemoaning their perks becoming public.
Christopher J. Ross