If you were busy with new year’s festivities and all the FTC complaints about Gawker, the Game Journo Pros and other nefarious activities spawned from various media groups all throughout this #GamerGate scandal, then it’s no surprise that you probably missed a pretty big update that happened at the beginning of 2015 at IGN: they updated and released their code of ethics to the public.
Back on December 29th, 2014 IGN made an update to their Standards and Practices guide on the official website under their Wikis section.
There are detailed descriptions of IGN’s practices regarding NDAs, review policies, embargoes, previews, sponsorships, IGN deals, travels, meals and gifts, library policy, crowd-funding, relationships, plagiarism, licensees and non-IGN content.
This update flew well under the radar due to a lot of other happenings taking place at the time. Nevertheless, it’s great news to see the inner workings and disclosure regarding the practices and ethics principles under which IGN operates.
The most controversial aspect of IGN is addressed under their review section, where they state…
IGN's opinions are not for sale. They are managed entirely by the editorial teams and the review opinion is separate from publisher relations.
One of the interesting things mentioned is under the relationships banner, where they state…
“If someone at IGN develops a relationship with an industry contact that extends beyond a professional friendship, he or she must disclose that to the editorial managers, who will determine whether or not that employee should be permitted to cover their friend's projects. If we determine that employee can still cover the project fairly, that personal relationship will be disclosed to our users”.
Previously, some developers and journalists had been in relationships with each other without disclosure. Some of these incestuous relationships became dangerous for consumers when one journalist refused to report on more than 40,000 users being hacked in order to avoid damaging his relationship with Electronic Arts.
Another controversial topic is the ads and sponsorships affecting editorial content. According to IGN’s public ethics policy…
IGN's editorial and sales team are entirely separate and advertising does not affect editorial priorities.
It’s amazing that just following on their new code of ethics being made public, a handful of their staff up and left.
Previously, Defy Media had overhauled their code of ethics and disclosure policies for many of their subsidiaries, including The Escapist Magazine. Rumors floated around that some of the former staff at the Escapist felt that the policy overhaul was management conceding to the whims of #GamerGate, which caused Jim Sterling to part ways and take to Patreon to fund his content.
Some gaming journalists were angered that various websites actually altered and made public their ethics policies at the behest of consumers who staged a revolt under the GamerGate hashtag. Clearly, anyone who is opposed to disclosure, transparency and a code of ethics in which to adhere, obviously prefers the more loose and corrupt ways of doing business. And corruption has been the way of gaming media for a long time.
Nevertheless, Tal Blevins, the publisher of IGN, had previously mentioned that they would be disclosing their ethics policy to the public and make it widely available so people can see how they operate and help hold them to the standard expected of them from the gaming community.
It’s nice to see that Blevins held true to his word and followed through. This is a clear indication that the requests from consumers using the GamerGate hashtag are not asking for much. The equally clear indication of push-back from major media outlets simply shows that they have a vested interest in protecting corrupt behavior.
You can view the very detailed code of ethics policy that IGN made available for public viewing by paying a visit to their official website.