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GameSpot to lose more credibility?


Beertiger
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I think there's an implication, perhaps more to do with journalistic tradition than anything else, that media outlets which review products and act as buying guides are supposed to be impartial - their journalists supposed to be giving us their honest opinions. That's the unwritten, implied agreement between the media source and its readers.

If the media source isn't impartial, if the marks it gives are based on the advertising spend of the product vendor, then that outlet is effectively being dishonest if it doesn't explicitly warn its readers of this fact in advance.

Readers are then able to decide whether or not those reviews have any value.

The media source sells advertising space based on the eyeballs it can deliver, but it collects those eyeballs by providing them with useful information. If the information it provides is useless (partial, untrustworthy reviews) it will stop collecting eyeballs, and eventually be unable to sell advertising space.

I'd say impartial reviews are pretty vital to the business model of a website like Gamespot, in the long term.

I agree with everything you've said, my point isn't that it's better to have reviews influenced by advertisers but that if you accept advertising from them then you are already compromising. For example, with K&L Gamespot have been showing advertising for the game designed to get their readership to buy the product. I mean, we all agree that's what advertising is for right? I think it's a bit of a paradox to say on one hand that you're impartial and will give nothing but good advice whilst at the same time exposing your readership to material which may influence them to buy a game which the site believes is "not worth buying at full price".

As for losing readership because you're not honest, I think it's more complicated than that. I could also say "if you slate every game then you won't get avertising so the number of eyeballs on your website is irrelevant", or "without cooperation with the publisher/developer you don't get access to any material of worth so have nothing to show your readership". It's a delicate balance which can't be reduced to simply "Journalists should be allowed to be as harsh as they want" or "Journalists must always do whatever the marketing team decides".

Take the example of one of your games. Say you invite the journalists over at your expense, show them the product, pay for advertising on their website in order to sell your game etc. It comes time to the review and they don't like it. They can point out the positives in your game whilst also pointing out the negatives and how they may outweigh the positives. At this point you may dissapointed but you can see that they are offering a balanced reflection of the state of your game. Say that instead of all this they just ranted about what an utter piece of tripe you've created, barely skimmed any positive aspects and generally shafted your product. You would be within your rights to wonder what they're playing at.

I don't think you can take cash from publishers/developers for the specific purpose of marketing their game and then totally trash it. Again, I'm not saying negative aspects shouldn't be reported, I just think some judgement needs to be applied. Obviously in some cases you can't win and the publisher/developer wants a 9/10 when the game is a 2/10, just saying that in this case I think there was a better middle ground, and I think that as the senior editor the person may have shown a lack of judgement.

If you want to write 100% impartial copy then don't accept money for advertising. For the record, I trust people on here a hell of a lot more than I do any publication. Actually that's a bit daft since some of the people on here work on some of the games, but there you go.

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Unfortunately this will drop off the radar, Eidos and CNETs refusal to talk about it ensures that only one side of the story comes out. Fortunately Jeff Gerstmann isn't angry and kicking out - he's taking it very well, but short of talking about the past time he was disciplined over the evil catch-all phrase of 'tone' this will end up mired under a layer of rumour that will stop most respectable news outlets from talking about it.

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:wub: Impartial reviews? They don't exist any more. The facade is there, but 90% of reviews* are paid for

(made up statistic, it's obviously a high amount though)

Exactly. The notion of a completely unbiased press which actually accepts money for advertising the product they're reviewing is just mind-boggling.

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Utterly bizarre? Looking for arguments? What are you babbling about? A mediocre game has negative and positive aspects, if it didn't it would just be a shit game. His tone is overwhelmingly negative, and since I went into it originally supporting the reviewer I just pointed out how after seeing the interview I can see how the situation came about. As for the "He's a journalist bla bla bla", get real, he's hardly an independant journalist who has been gagged, he's working for a company with an agenda, he knew that. Nobody is saying he should be jumping up and down praising the game because the marketing team tell him to, but it's equally naive to believe he should be allowed to say what he wants whilst representing Gamespot. Isn't he in charge of vetting content in order to avoid situations like this? Didn't one of the previous quotes from a Gamespot employee say that they vet freelance material in order to remove sniping etc? I can easily see how he could be fired if the people in charge felt he was no longer able to do this or was acting in a way which was losing them large amounts of money when the situation could be avoided.

I'm not saying I'm right, I just think your attitude is increadibly arrogant when the "tone" was cited as the main reason for complaint. For all we know he lack of judgement when it came to the "tone" was an ongoing issue. Like I said, I think it's very easy to have gotten his point across without being so negative. He could likely have avoided the situation, which is probably why he was fired. Doesn't mean I'm happy with the outcome, it just makes sense.

Lots of nebulous fluff there. Let's try and condense your argument down:

- His review was negative yet it received a 6

His review was predominantly negative, but he did praise aspects of the game. Regardless it's not uncommon, nor unreasonable for a review to critcise a game and still award it a decent mark. Edges Mario Sunshine review springs to mind. I'm unsure how any of this has any bearing on his sacking in the first place unless you're trying to argue that his review was so inconsistant with his score that it, in itself, constituted a sackable offense. I don't think that's what you're saying though.

- Gamespot has an agenda - the critical nature of his review contravened that agenda.

What exactly is Gamespots 'agenda' other than to inform its readers? Genuine question. His review was critical but not, at least from other reviews I've seen, unfair or pernicious. It genuinely seemed like an honest appraisal of the game. He could have avoided the situation, yes, by being less honest in his criticism of the game but completely undermining his journalistic integrity. Let me preempt your scoffing of those sentiments by saying that Gamespot, whilst not my favourite website by any means, always seemed to me reasonably honest and decent. Yes, he could have taken the path of least resistance and given the game a neutral review but then what kind of game reviewer would that make him? Certainly not one I'd want to listen to.

Your notion that any publication that advertises should just shut up and say nothing critical of any of its advertisers is just awful. Advertisers are sold space in publications, not the right to influence editorial. Whilst it certainly goes on, it should always be criticised and abhorred, if we accept it willingly then we may as well give up on any idea we have of a free press. Following your logic I assume forums should not be allowed to be openly critical of their affiliates or advertsisers?

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Nobody's posted about Gamespot's statement yet then?

Gerstmann, GameSpot part ways

After nearly 11 years of news, reviews, and previews, editorial director's tenure ends; GameSpot editors address controversy surrounding his departure.

By Staff, GameSpot

Posted Dec 4, 2007 5:18 am GMT

The past week marked the end of an era at GameSpot. After over a decade in a variety of editorial roles, Jeff Gerstmann's tenure as editorial director has ended.

"Jeff was a central figure in the creation and evolution of GameSpot, having written hundreds of previews and reviews, and anchoring much of our multimedia content," said Ricardo Torres, editorial director of previews and events. "The award-winning editorial team he leaves behind wish him nothing but good luck in his future endeavors."

Due to legal constraints and the company policy of GameSpot parent CNET Networks, details of Gerstmann's departure cannot be disclosed publicly. However, contrary to widespread and unproven reports, his exit was not a result of pressure from an advertiser.

"Neither CNET Networks nor GameSpot has ever allowed its advertising business to affect its editorial content," said Greg Brannan, CNET Networks Entertainment's vice president of programming. "The accusations in the media that it has done so are unsubstantiated and untrue. Jeff's departure stemmed from internal reasons unrelated to any buyer of advertising on GameSpot."

"Though he will be missed by his colleagues, Jeff's leaving does not affect GameSpot's core mission of delivering the most timely news, video content, in-depth previews, and unbiased reviews in games journalism," said Ryan MacDonald, executive producer of GameSpot Live. "GameSpot is an institution, and its code of ethics and duty to its users remains unchanged."

Tune in later in the week to hear editors' tributes to Gerstmann on the HotSpot podcast and GameSpot's weekly Webcast, On the Spot.

Oh that's reassuring, and convincing.

Gamespot and Gerrstman part ways. forcibly.

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:wub: Impartial reviews? They don't exist any more. The facade is there, but 90% of reviews* are paid for

(made up statistic, it's obviously a high amount though)

I'm really going to have to stick up for the reviewing industry here - there are some twats who love their free shit, but when I was in that game, the majority of people I worked with would have never, ever considered being anything other than totally honest.

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It really depends what your business model is. Nobody, especially in this day and age, stops you from putting your opinions "out there" in the wild. If you want to do it whilst being subsidised by advertising then you're going to have to compromise in some areas. I don't think there's a black and white between reprinting marketing copy and being 100% honest, I think you can write a review in which you get your point across yet still keep your advertisers onside. There's a massive difference between saying "It's a pile of fucking shit which you should only really bother to buy for £1 second hand" to a piece which gets the sentiment across in a more diplomatic way.

Are you all really saying that you shouldn't ever consider your advertisers when they are critical to your business model? Really? Then don't set up a company that works like that, or in this case don't work for a company which is run like that. It's not about "turning a blind eye", it's about using some common sense.

This is a really depressing post.

If your customers are people who trust what you say, then never compromise. The trust is the only thing that matters - short-term profits from advertisers come and go, but if your reputation goes then you're stuffed.

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Hmm, well, I'm not too comfortable with Monkichi's argument (which in latter posts is flatly wrong and also insulting to a lot of working writers), but there is obviously a need for diplomacy in reviewing. I mean, you can say a game is shit politely, or go off on a one-sided foul-mouthed rant... I don't think any 'professional' site would pay for the latter. I think the opening and closing statements of the Kane & Lynch video review are probably what CNet freaked out about. Gerstmann's talking about the premise of the game was unusually emotive.

I think conspiracy theories about the entire system being corrupt!!!1 should be left on the blogs of bitter failed journalists, where they belong.

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Lots of nebulous fluff there. Let's try and condense your argument down:

Let's not yeah? What the fuck is this, some sort of games university where every single post has to be a fucking thesis on the world of gaming? It's just an opinion yeah?

What exactly is Gamespots 'agenda' other than to inform its readers?

JESUS!!!! They are currently existing to make money. Living in a fantasty land some of you, seriously. They are responsible for the jobs of many people, it's gone way beyong the point of a laugh and random comments about games.

It genuinely seemed like an honest appraisal of the game. He could have avoided the situation, yes, by being less honest in his criticism of the game but completely undermining his journalistic integrity.

What? Journalistic integrity? They had a sodding Kane & Lynch wallpaper for ages, I think that journalistic integrity was long gone.

Let me preempt your scoffing of those sentiments by saying that Gamespot, whilst not my favourite website by any means, always seemed to me reasonably honest and decent. Yes, he could have taken the path of least resistance and given the game a neutral review but then what kind of game reviewer would that make him? Certainly not one I'd want to listen to.

6/10 IS a generally neutral review. It's mediocre. You can be reasonably honest and decent whilst being diplomatic.

Your notion that any publication that advertises should just shut up and say nothing critical of any of its advertisers is just awful.

I never said that, learn to read yeah?

Advertisers are sold space in publications, not the right to influence editorial.

Yeah, right, keep on dreaming.

Whilst it certainly goes on, it should always be criticised and abhorred, if we accept it willingly then we may as well give up on any idea we have of a free press. Following your logic I assume forums should not be allowed to be openly critical of their affiliates or advertsisers?

Yeah, because that's exactly what I'm saying isn't it? Free press? What? What are you on about? The reviewer can write whatever he wants on his own time. He can set up his own website if he chooses, what the hell are you flapping about? He was a writer for Gamespot at the time, hence if he writes something they don't like he cops flack. When was Gamespot the bastion of free press? You're all living in La-La Land.

This is a really depressing post.

If your customers are people who trust what you say, then never compromise. The trust is the only thing that matters - short-term profits from advertisers come and go, but if your reputation goes then you're stuffed.

Never compromise? Another fantasy dweller. If you have people dependant on you paying their wages then don't compromise that. Trust before profits, fucking joking aren't you?

Hmm, well, I'm not too comfortable with Monkichi's argument (which in latter posts is flatly wrong and also insulting to a lot of working writers), but there is obviously a need for diplomacy in reviewing. I mean, you can say a game is shit politely, or go off on a one-sided foul-mouthed rant... I don't think any 'professional' site would pay for the latter. I think the opening and closing statements of the Kane & Lynch video review are probably what CNet freaked out about. Gerstmann's talking about the premise of the game was unusually emotive.

I think conspiracy theories about the entire system being corrupt!!!1 should be left on the blogs of bitter failed journalists, where they belong.

I said it was my 2 cents, not a sodding proposal on how the world of journalism should be run. You all seem to think I stumbled on to my view after randomly coming into existence from the ether. I've put my own job on the line before trying to defend such idealistic claptrap only to realise that my view on what I think the ideal of the gaming industry should be like is nothing like the reality. The reality is that it's big business, with a lot of money and people's jobs on the line. Some of the fairy tale claptrap on this thread is naive to the point of insanity. I really feel for the reviewer getting the sack, I really do. Unfortunately it's not a surprise. Nothing needs changing, you can write what you want whenever you want at your own cost. If you work for a company then perform the task your paid for, otherwise set up your own company with more integrity. That's just my opinion, and to be honest this hot air that you're all blowing will be forgotten in a month or two and Gamespot will have its membership numbers up again, Eidos will sell games and none of you will care about this. Absolute jokers.

I honestly don't know where to start.

KG

Don't bother then.

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I'm frothing at the mouth here.

ARRGGHHH!!!

A journalist

1. At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed

2. Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair

3. Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies

4. Differentiates between fact and opinion

5. Obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means

6. Does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest

7. Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work

8. Resists threats or any other inducements to influence, distort or suppress information

9. Takes no unfair personal advantage of information gained in the course of her/his duties before the information is public knowledge

10. Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation

11. Does not by way of statement, voice or appearance endorse by advertisement any commercial product or service save for the promotion of her/his own work or of the medium by which she/he is employed

12. Avoids plagiarism.

You see that Code of Ethics there. THAT is what we stand by and we have to be neutral and be honest and cannot be told what to write due to advertisers pressure.

Now I've seen stories pulled by bosses because it would hurt an advertiser - but apart from my stint at a certain magazine in Australia - I've never had that line crossed by advertising to editorial. Journalists have to be independent. The public need them to be and if they discover they have been lied to then they won't trust that journalist.

People no longer trust gamespot. The proof is right in front of you.

Fuck I'm not longer in journalism and your comments make me want to throw up. How dare you suggest that journalists are virtually on the take, or bow to advertising. Bad journalists maybe, but there are a shit load of good journalists out there who will never let their ethics and their code of conduct be abused.

A journalists job is to be honest and report the truth. He was reporting what he felt about the game. He shouldn't have to reel himself in just because Eidos advertise.

I should point out that I left the job I was in when they kept asking me to write only about those who advertised and only in a positive light. The company is vile and greedy and run by wankers and I would never work there ever again and I had to leave as I felt my position as a reporter was being used.

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Oh, it was just a "Dude, you're either trolling or don't know much about how consumer writing works" put in a much more cutting way. It was the phrasing rather than the content that was what made me have second thoughts.

KG

I'm not trolling at all, and I know fuck all about consumer writing. I did work for the marketing department of a publisher (Book publisher, nothing to do with games) and have held other positions in games companies, including a games publisher. I do know what I said was right from a perspective other than that of a writer on random internet forum dweller. I'm just annoyed that you can't voice an opinion on here without people coming back like we're on some do-or-die debate where you have to present a watertight thesis on the workings of journalistic world. Why not just make this a read only forum where only qualified people can offer an opinion, that way I won't be under the delusion I can chip in. God's sake, I even said it was just my 2 cent's worth.

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I'm frothing at the mouth here.

ARRGGHHH!!!

You see that Code of Ethics there. THAT is what we stand by and we have to be neutral and be honest and cannot be told what to write due to advertisers pressure.

Now I've seen stories pulled by bosses because it would hurt an advertiser - but apart from my stint at a certain magazine in Australia - I've never had that line crossed by advertising to editorial. Journalists have to be independent. The public need them to be and if they discover they have been lied to then they won't trust that journalist.

People no longer trust gamespot. The proof is right in front of you.

Fuck I'm not longer in journalism and your comments make me want to throw up. How dare you suggest that journalists are virtually on the take, or bow to advertising. Bad journalists maybe, but there are a shit load of good journalists out there who will never let their ethics and their code of conduct be abused.

A journalists job is to be honest and report the truth. He was reporting what he felt about the game. He shouldn't have to reel himself in just because Eidos advertise.

I should point out that I left the job I was in when they kept asking me to write only about those who advertised and only in a positive light. The company is vile and greedy and run by wankers and I would never work there ever again and I had to leave as I felt my position as a reporter was being used.

So why did you leave? Because there are consequences to not doing what you're told? So then that's what I'm saying isn't it, that I can see why he was sacked from Gamespot's perspective. Fucking hell, is it just because I'm drunk or are you people actually mental?

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Oh, it was just a "Dude, you're either trolling or don't know much about how consumer writing works" put in a much more cutting way. It was the phrasing rather than the content that was what made me have second thoughts.

KG

Jesus fucking Christ.

Fair enough, Monkcihi may not know how consumer writing works. But I know how games marketing works. And they take all the big fucking mags/websites out to bars/meals/lapdancing places and basically pay to get reviews. So I put it to you, Mr Gillen, that you don't understand corporate marketing.

K-fucking-G.

I can't believe how uppity some people are getting about this. ITS THE FUCKING SAME IN EVERY INDUSTRY.

Of course you get your good guys, fighting the good fight etc. But when you work for a big company, who are subsidised by a BIGGER company, if you step out of line, you can't be completely surprised when something like this happens.

Monkichi doesn't agree that it was the RIGHT thing for CNET/Gamespot to do, NOR WOULD ANY OF US, but, he is merely trying to explain why this might have happened. And it makes perfect sense to me.

I don't understand this hostile reaction towards him at all.

Also, KG, have the balls to not edit your posts, next time.

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Also, KG, have the balls to not edit your posts, next time.

Perhaps he just had the balls to correct an error of judgement?

----------

When these subjects come up I find its the "I can't believe anyone is surprised" brigade that are the most tiresome. The idea that game reviewers are typically corrupt is rubbish. Most reviewers (like most developers) are, in my experience, fairly earnest and passionate about what they do. As I mentioned before, this case is evidence that reviewers are NOT corrupt.

It's also perfectly understandable and natural for publishers to scream and shout (and threaten to pull advertising) and for spineless managers to react by attempting to curtail reviews. I think this does highlight a problem with the advertising-funded business model of most forms of specialist press. And yes, this is nothing new. But I, for one, am surprised by this sacking.

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I'm frothing at the mouth here.

ARRGGHHH!!!

You see that Code of Ethics there. THAT is what we stand by and we have to be neutral and be honest and cannot be told what to write due to advertisers pressure.

Now I've seen stories pulled by bosses because it would hurt an advertiser - but apart from my stint at a certain magazine in Australia - I've never had that line crossed by advertising to editorial. Journalists have to be independent. The public need them to be and if they discover they have been lied to then they won't trust that journalist.

People no longer trust gamespot. The proof is right in front of you.

Fuck I'm not longer in journalism and your comments make me want to throw up. How dare you suggest that journalists are virtually on the take, or bow to advertising. Bad journalists maybe, but there are a shit load of good journalists out there who will never let their ethics and their code of conduct be abused.

A journalists job is to be honest and report the truth. He was reporting what he felt about the game. He shouldn't have to reel himself in just because Eidos advertise.

I should point out that I left the job I was in when they kept asking me to write only about those who advertised and only in a positive light. The company is vile and greedy and run by wankers and I would never work there ever again and I had to leave as I felt my position as a reporter was being used.

yeah, but that's the journalism code, not the games review code.
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