Looking at a way to discuss the topic of game journalism ethics has been percolating for weeks now. There have been so many accusations thrown around, some with and many with out evidence. After digging around various high profile gaming websites, it has come to my attention that many of them do not have any discussion of their ethics policies. Some have them publicly posted, which they should be applauded for doing. Though, even if they are posted, most are very difficult to find. This topic is especially important now after this news.
Why should we care about an ethics policy at all? Well, the biggest reason is accountability. While we all have our own ideas about what game journalism ethics should be, an outlet that has a clear set of rules that are easily accessible for all to see can be held accountable by the public. It would be much easier to notice a breach in ethics when an outlet’s thoughts on ethics are there for everyone to see. Therefore, it will help journalists think twice about breaking that policy (if they were going to at all). Also, this would help avoid a debate on what the ethics should be if a member of the public catches a journalist/outlet breaking its own policy.
Another significant reason to have a publicly available, easily accessible ethics policy is so that it can be criticized. If a large section of the community disagrees with what they believe to uphold journalistic integrity, or think it needs some work, then it should be reviewed. Adjustments should be made to ensure that integrity is held in tact. Even more importantly, and hopefully all outlets would strive for this, being open to criticism will help slowly mold ethics policies into the best that they can be. As said before, we all have different ideas on game journalism ethics, but this would help make it a communal effort to ensure something better comes out of what we currently have.
Lastly, having publicly available, easily accessible ethics policies will benefit readers greatly too. For one thing, they can judge an outlet based on that policy. From their judgment they could then choose to either criticize it, ignore it, or choose a different outlet to follow. Knowing what governs an outlet, even if judged a poor policy because it can be criticized, will greatly help create a community of trust.
Publicly available, easily accessible ethics policies will prove a commitment to integrity for all the reasons listed above. We need to move beyond this air of distrust that the community/gaming industry as at the moment, and for that to happen, many outlets have to work hard to regain trust.
You probably noticed, and probably annoyed you too, that I said “publicly available, easily accessible ethics policies” a few times. That is because even when some sites do have ethics policies they do follow and are sort of available, they are extremely difficult to find.
For example, many outlets have a parent company that owns them. That means that they then don’t have to create their own ethics policy as they would inherit the parent company’s. While searching for many policies, I had a difficult time finding them. For some, I had to find the parent company, go to the parent company and the outlet’s websites – where I couldn’t find the ethics policy displayed anywhere- and continue searching in other places until through some luck in Google I found it. That was not a one time occurrence either.
Wouldn’t it be nice, and more ideal, if we could just find it easily?
Some sites, who both have and don’t have parent companies, don’t seem to have ethics policies publicly available at all (at least that I could find). That is a problem, which doesn’t help the bigger problem of corruption accusations being thrown around at the moment. If we are to fix game journalism ethics, we need to see what needs fixing.
All I ask is that I can see what governs and protects an outlets integrity, so that we can increase the level of integrity in the gaming industry over all.
I encourage you to look at your favorite outlet (TechRaptor’s is right here) and try to find their ethics policy or statement somewhere. Some will have them, some will not. Ask yourself why they aren’t there, and more importantly, ask that outlet why it isn’t there.
One final thing to add: I ask all other media outlets, small or large, to pledge to make their ethics codes, statements, or policies, publicly available and easily accessible. Why is this a good idea? Well, it can only mean good things for both readers and outlets, as discussed more thoroughly above. Contact the official @TechRaptr Twitter to have your outlet listed as pledging to make your ethics policy available and/or to let us know that your policy is publicly available. You can contact myself on Twitter @OttAndrew or by email at: aotton[at]techraptor.net.
Readers are not left out of this either. Go to this link here to sign a petition stating that you would wish for all media outlets to publicly display their code of ethics with easy access.
Hopefully this could bring some change and more awareness to repairing the rift between the media and its readers that has opened recently. Trust needs to return.