This is going to be a short article, as it’s nothing we haven’t seen time and time again, but people deserve to know the truth each time it comes back around. You see, just recently Kotaku wrote an article titled “What is Richard Dawkins: Evolution?” in which they refused to disclose their relation with their topic. As a matter of fact, one viewer by the name of Douglas responded to their lack of disclosure, pointing out that the writer of the article is a Backer of the game that the article talks about.
Since then, Kotaku has removed the post without response, but the writer, Richard Stanton, has not placed the disclaimer. The comments are now full of people pointing out that they deleted the comment, thereby going far beyond the original breach of ethical journalism. This is very well a break in the SPJ Code of Ethics. According to the Code of Ethics, one should Act Independently, and that they should avoid any conflicts of interest (real or perceived). In other words, the writer should disclose any unavoidable conflicts.
Here’s where my problem lies: it’s not that big of a deal to place a disclaimer or a disclosure. Personally, I try to put one at the end of all my articles, even if I don’t feel that whatever I listed is strong enough of a connection to warrant one, thereby covering the “real or perceived” ruling of the Code of Ethics. But what is it that makes Richard Stanton think that adding a simple disclosure of his Backer status will weaken his argument? If he believes in the potential of the game in question, then his status as a Backer should only enhance his argument to his audience. The idea that he believes the game is worth his time, and his money would make the audience more coerced into supporting the game.
While this can be considered a lapse in judgement by the writer, however, Stanton has written three articles total regarding the game of which none contain a disclosure. According to Kotaku’s Policy of Reporting, a writer may only be permitted to pay into a “Patreon or any other crowd-funding service in the extremely unlikely scenario when it is the only way to access a game we’re interested in for coverage.” As such, it also breaks Kotaku’s Policy for him to participate in crowd-funding for a game that Richard Stanton is covering.
Now, many readers may see this as only a violation of Kotaku’s reporting policy and not so much as a conflict of interest otherwise. However, if the writer, or by extension his editor, believed that it was not a violation of journalistic ethics, there would be no reason for Douglas’ comment to be deleted in the first place. If the argument could be otherwise defended, they could explain to the reader why there was no conflict of interest or break in their reporting policy. The deletion of this comment makes me believe that they (be it Richard Stanton, his editor, or both) know that they did something wrong and are trying to cover up their wrongdoing…So I truly hope that in the future, Kotaku and their writers can avoid situations such as this by simply following the Code of Ethics.
And with that said, what’s your take on this matter? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section down below!
Robin Ek – Editor
This is a personal opinion of the writer, and it doesn’t necessarily represent the other writers’ (nor The Gaming Ground´s) opinions.
I am no fan of Kotaku or Richard Stanton. I may have a negative bias against them, and as such that should be taken into consideration in relation to the point of my article. I am a supporter of #GamerGate and as such hold the SPJ Code of Ethics in a high regard.
The Gaming Ground
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