Journalistic Integrity?

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One of those instances where pleading no comment really doesn't make things look any better. It makes them look terribly corporate, which rarely has good connotations, however true it may be.

If these allegations were totally unfounded I would expect them, policy or not, to comment on what he was not fired about. Since although commenting on the specifics of a termination is not what most companies will do, saying what they weren't fired for, especially when it effects their reputation and strikes at the heart of their business, wouldn't be outrageous.

The things silence says...

I guess it's time to start looking for more good review sites. I wish the Escapist did more regular and easier to access reviews, they have some good writers that contribute and can usually give interesting reads.

Seems like a bad week for the medium of Videogame Journalism, what with IGN actually screaming (if you were unfortunate enough to download there podcast) at Penny Arcade for daring to question the reviews of Assasians Creed.

Yahtzee is pretty much one of the better reviewers out there at the moment.

"a significant breach of ethics"?!
i thought that was common practice for all the big gaming mags/sites. seriously. otherwise, why does even the worst game get a 6-7/10?

When I first heard the news I thought about Yahtzee first, obviously this poor bloke at gamespot had a communication problem with the people handling the money, specifically the advertising budgets. Like Sylocat said earlier, no wonder critics gave Halo 10/10... considering they pumped so much money into it.

How does this guy get fired for this review which seems pretty honest to me having not played the game myself, and not the guy who reviewed R&C future and said it had too much spice....................That guy should have been fired for that.

Yeah, it's a pretty harsh review. If anything, I'd say the text is harsher than a score of 6 would represent. I think part of whether K&L works is whether you get the characters of Kane & Lynch themselves, and Jeff didn't.

Other reviewers that did were less harsh, but still criticised the same flaws in the basic experience.

Just think about this guys.

This wasn't because Tony Hawk got a 10.

Or Zelda TP getting a 8.8

This is over KANE AND LYNCH. It really kind of sucks. I would be really ticked off if I got fired over that shit.

An incident like this , whatever the final reasons for Gerstmann's firing may be, looks horrible. Video game reviews are, with few exceptions, indistinguishable from one another in both style and content. That being the case, their merit relies solely on the assumption that the reviewer has the consumer's best interests in mind. This situation brings into question the entire system of trust.

That said, I think there is an excellent piece of investigative journalism waiting to be written that examines the links between the video game press and their endemic advertisers.

I've got to wonder how many of these 1.0 reviews are simply a "show of solidarity" from PA fans, honestly. Did ALL of them play the game? And choose to review it all at once, on the same day?

Still. This whole thing is just another sign of the disconnect between the media and the consumer. Keep stabbing yourselves in the back, guys; we're not THAT stupid. Sooner or later you'll find the advertising money dwindling anyway- not because of any lack of compliance in review scores, but because of dwindling visits to a website no one trusts any longer.

íVive Escapist!

For anyone who is interested in making a statement...you can't actually "cancel" a free account on GameSpot, but what you can do is nuke all your account data and set the email to a dummy address you never check.

Shame ... I really liked some of the game library and scoring features on there.

Dummies...super glad we've still got the Escapist!!!

They removed the video review immediately after. And the text itself has been toned down dramatically.

Thats not conspicuous at all.

Good job Gamespot.

I see that the news has spread over the internets rather quickly, but i do not know what to think.

On the one hand, it seems that the video review is removed but still on youtube, which may mean google doesn't mind having it, since it isn't plucked of of it. We should wait and see what happens with those.

On the other hand, it seems like gamespot actually WANTED to get the video off of their site, but because of this they have rather shot themselves in the foot. This way, naive people(including me) come to think that he is fired because of said video. I am very glad the escapist members show me otherwise. and maybe i should start gathering info on what it isl ike to be a reviewer. But i'm digressing.

The only thing we can do now is or speculate or wait, i nwhich the latter is the better option. Let's just hope the integrity of other game reviewing sites that are legit, won't show it's cracks.

the one thing i dont get is why gamespot took the video review down, since if anything it was quite tame...

Well compared to how harsh yahtzee would have been if he did the review.

I don't know if it's fresh or not, but, well, there's some kind of related topic to be found there:

The Reboot: Tommy Tallarico on Video Game Journalism

CNet's response is disappointing. They had an opportunity to say "Allegations of improper conduct are untrue. CNet has a strict rule that we do not allow ad sales to influence editorial decisions, and no such influence occurred here." They didn't. Why not, we wonder?

All parties remaining silent, whatever their reasons are, only served to fuel the scandal.

From that other blog linked to earlier on, here's the stuff to retain (grain of salt and all that):

- Jeff was the Editor in Chief. If any of his stuff was unprofessionnal, it must have been something recent. He worked for the company for 11 years apparently, and his appointment as EiC was seemingly done when he was "walking on thin ice".

- There's been some accusations that he didn't really play Kane & Lynch, and only browsed the first level, based on the observation of his public gamer tag. This was without considering the ParnerNet account, which he'd be ought to use for a proper review.

- Some amusing but highly unlikely theory: His departure was already planned before hand, but he didn't quite digest the reasons formulated by Gamespot, so he ruminated a way to get out with a bang, so he found K&L to be the perfect time and oportunity to become a martyr.

- Of course, if he was really treading on eggs, why give him the oportunity to review K&L, considering the huge amount of advertising on the site?

- If the video review wasn't part of the problem, why did Gamespot remove it?
Let's understand that Jeff also concludes his review with "it's probably not worth purchase" though he previously encourages people to take a look at the multiplayer because it's still has neat ideas.

- It seems that years ago, Gamespot removed a review made by an editor who was blamed for not actually playing enough of the game.

A person working at Gamespot if he or she is to be believed, wrote this:

From a GS editor, anonymous of course:

What you might not be aware of is that GS is well known for appealing mostly to hardcore gamers. The mucky-mucks have been doing a lot of "brand research" over the last year or so and indicating that they want to reach out to more casual gamers. Our last executive editor, Greg Kasavin, left to go to EA, and he was replaced by a suit, Josh Larson, who had no editorial experience and was only involved on the business side of things. Over the last year there has been an increasing amount of pressure to allow the advertising teams to have more of a say in the editorial process; we've started having to give our sales team heads-ups when a game is getting a low score, for instance, so that they can let the advertisers know that before a review goes up. Other publishers have started giving us notes involving when our reviews can go up; if a game's getting a 9 or above, it can go up early; if not, it'll have to wait until after the game is on the shelves.

I was in the meeting where Josh Larson was trying to explain this firing and the guy had absolutely no response to any of the criticisms we were sending his way. He kept dodging the question, saying that there were "multiple instances of tone" in the reviews that he hadn't been happy about, but that wasn't Jeff's problem since we all vet every review. He also implied that "AAA" titles deserved more attention when they were being reviewed, which sounded to all of us that he was implying that they should get higher scores, especially since those titles are usually more highly advertised on our site.

I know that it's all about the money, and hey, I like money. I like advertising because it pays my salary. Unfortunately after Kasavin left the church-and-state separation between the sales teams and the editorial team has cracked, and with Jeff's firing I think it's clear that the management now has no interest at all in integrity and are instead looking for an editorial team that will be nicer to the advertisors.

When companies make games as downright contemptible as Kane and Lynch, they deserve to be called on it. I guess you'll have to go to Onion or a smaller site for objective reviews now, because everyone at GS now thinks that if they give a low score to a high-profile game, they'll be[fired]. Everyone's **** scared and we're all hoping to get Josh Larson removed from his position because no one trusts him anymore. If that doesn't happen then look for every game to be Game of the Year material at GameSpot.

Posted by: Gimli000 | Nov 30, 2007 4:50:29 PM

Current situation at Gamespot:

"Kane & Lynch User Reviews Are Currently Disabled
Thank you for your efforts to contribute to the gaming community.
Ratings for Kane & Lynch are currently not being accepted for display on GameSpot.com."

As always, nothing solid, just hearsays, remote observations and rampant speculation. But what kind of speculation, really!

Will the Escapist fire Yahtzee if he DOESN'T give K&L a good review...?

...I'm scared...:(

What did they expect? I saw the previews for the game months before and knew from the get-go that the game would either be mediocre or terrible. Apparently GameSpot's money hat made them think otherwise.

*Must resist...need to...flame Sylocat...GRAHIEHGHHAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!*

Virgil:
In order for Russ to get fired, another editor would have to slay him in a gladitorial arena battle and take his place. That's just how we do things here.

Huh. I always wondered where that whole "pen is mightier than the sword" thing came from. I guess now we know.

Archon:
CNet's response is disappointing. They had an opportunity to say "Allegations of improper conduct are untrue. CNet has a strict rule that we do not allow ad sales to influence editorial decisions, and no such influence occurred here." They didn't. Why not, we wonder?

That is actually a good question. They said they valued editor integrity and pointed to their previous record, but didn't really say anything about this one. Considering they just got new management at Gamespot, perhaps they're wondering as well and are in the process of double-checking the reasons? If so, I expect we'll get a further press-release later either saying more directly what happened or announcing Steven's resignation.

Arbre:
I don't know if it's fresh or not, but, well, there's some kind of related topic to be found there:

The Reboot: Tommy Tallarico on Video Game Journalism

Apparently when you're rich enough to buy Spain and turn it into a whorehouse, your half-assed opinions also become important. That's the only reason people listen to Tallarico.

So, the speculation is heavily in the advantage here? Scary.

Still speculation, but there seems to be evidence showing, and it seems GS has rather shot themselves in the foot by having someone with more experience in the business, rather than in the editorials.

But are there any good reasons to fire Jeff? There might be, but i don't see it.

Cnet is half assed but good enough gamespot is mostly paid summiers that they call reviews.

I can't stand IGN either its more PR than straight up reviews....also there should be a law...a fan of a game should never review it....

Final_Assassin_42:

Arbre:
I don't know if it's fresh or not, but, well, there's some kind of related topic to be found there:

The Reboot: Tommy Tallarico on Video Game Journalism

Apparently when you're rich enough to buy Spain and turn it into a whorehouse, your half-assed opinions also become important. That's the only reason people listen to Tallarico.

He made a half decent point nonetheless. Showy bashing sells a lot more.

I like the contrast of how in his Orange Box review Yahtzee implies he'll be fired if he doesn't give a negative review...

Not sure what to say about the topic at hand other than to note that it shouldn't surprise anyone that reviews on the big sites can't be trusted. If it takes something as obvious as this to shock everyone into realising then perhaps that's a good thing. Plus it makes for great gossip...

SatansBestBuddy:
The review was on Nov. 13, yet he was fired recently, or at least several days after.

Also, if Edios was responsible in some way, why didn't they just pack up their ads and leave, why did they want someone fired?

What's more, why not have the review taken down and have someone else post something "better"?

And while GameSpot's 6/10 score was low, it certainly wasn't out of the ordinary, most all review sites and magazines are in agreement that this is a 6/10 game.

Why would Gamespot be singled out, and why would such a senior and generally respected editor be demanded (and accepted by Gamespot) as sacrifice?

To answer those questions in order (and with complete speculation):

* It might have taken a couple of days for the PR boys to bother putting together the press clippings, plus a week or so for them to get the okay from Eidos to pull the advertising, plus a week or two of Eidos and CNET negotiating advertising terms.

* Eidos may not have demanded that he be fired. It could have been decided by CNET after the review lost them huge amounts of money.

* The damage is done regarding the review, and replacing it would be an admission that this was the reason they fired him (and didn't they take down the video review anyway? Or at least shift it to the paid-only section?)

* Were all other sites receiving as much advertising money for the Kane and Lynch game as Gamespot? Jeff made the review, therefore Jeff was responsible (however unfairly) for losing CNET huge amounts of money. Laying him off sends a message to the other journos and hopefully keeps Eidos sweet to win them back for more advertising moolah.

It's an appalling state of affairs, though, if this is the case.

I, for one, am boycotting Gamespot for the time being. Half because this situation is ludicrous, and half because it's not exactly an essential site. I can easily find my gaming news elsewhere.

Come on Escapist, time to step up to the plate! I really do think this site has a chance to become a bastion (if you will) of integrity in gaming.

SatansBestBuddy:
The more I go around the rumour mill, the more I find that I'm one of only a handful of people who don't think he was fired over a negative reveiw.

For one thing, some of the facts don't line up.

The review was on Nov. 13, yet he was fired recently, or at least several days after.

Also, if Edios was responsible in some way, why didn't they just pack up their ads and leave, why did they want someone fired?

What's more, why not have the review taken down and have someone else post something "better"?

And while GameSpot's 6/10 score was low, it certainly wasn't out of the ordinary, most all review sites and magazines are in agreement that this is a 6/10 game.

Why would Gamespot be singled out, and why would such a senior and generally respected editor be demanded (and accepted by Gamespot) as sacrifice?

http://www.joystiq.com/2007/11/30/rumor-gamespots-editorial-director-fired-over-kane-and-lynch-rev/

No, I don't think his review, or at least any one specific one, had anything to do with it.

Though this does bring up the question of, "What did happen?"

This is what the conspiracy theorists say:

Gerstmann wasn't fired just after the review was posted because of the huge holiday rush. Gerstmann was editor-in-chief; he would be needed during that most crucial time of year.

He was probably fired because he wrote the review that made Eidos pull their ads, which meant that Gamespot lost a lot of money (the amount of K&L ads on GS.com was absurd), which meant that CNET lost a bunch of money, which meant Gerstmann lost CNET a bunch of money. Therefore, what's the best action to take? Fire the fat donut-hog, of course!

Gamespot was singled out because Eidos had a helluva lot of ads on their site. That's right. A helluva lot of ads. You couldn't move your mouse an inch in any direction without hitting a K&L ad. And that's NOT lying. Just exaggerating.

I don't know what to think. I just know that this whole thing is a shambolic mess.

EDIT: beat me to it, JamesW. Sigh. I worked hard on this. Real hard. I mean, Rocky IV hard. I guess the better man won.

Sorry, zoozilla. :)

News link: Gerstmann, Gamespot part ways

"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."

Looks like Gamespot's finally just outright denying any Eidos influence. Should have just done it from the beginning.

Oh, of course they end with MORE ADVERTISING. And the way they worded it, they couldn't have been more clear except by saying, "Hey! It's all because of the review!" If they want to say it isn't because of that, then they should give a better reason, even something pretty vague would be fine, but outright saying, "We won't tell you. Nyah nyah nyah!" is a surefire way to get people to think the opposite.

Ah, Kane and Lynch strikes again!

http://kotaku.com/gaming/eidos/did-we-give-kane--lynch-5-stars-329539.php

http://kotaku.com/gaming/kane-%26-lynch/kane--lynch-site-fibbing-about-reviews-scores-329529.php

If I'm reading this right, then Edios is lying about review scores from Game Informer, Gamespy, and Kotaku. And Kotaku DOESN'T GIVE OUT SCORES.

zoozilla:
I mean, Rocky IV hard.

That's pretty hard. I mean, you're pulling that sled with Paulie on it through the snow.

I'm a bit surprised by the outrage. Does anybody really doubt that Gamespot gives biased reviews? Especially their video-reviews play like advertisements. Every (major, mainstream) game they review is "massive", "intense" and whatnot.

If anyone is in doubt, well ... they are being PAID by the publishers of the games they review. I mean really, the situation is something akin to asking a car-salesman on commission which car has most value for the money. He might give you a straight answer, but he might as well not.

I don't care how "professional" you are, accepting payment from game publishers in this context is in itself an issue with integrity. Even if game reviews aren't as "serious" a business, there's a reason why independent auditing boards are required to not have stakes in the companies they audit.

Per default, Gamespot has issues with integrity, since they accept money from major game publishers. I thought that was more or less understood and accepted by everyone. Guess I'm sort of blue-eyed cynical?

raankh:
I'm a bit surprised by the outrage. Does anybody really doubt that Gamespot gives biased reviews? Especially their video-reviews play like advertisements. Every (major, mainstream) game they review is "massive", "intense" and whatnot.

If anyone is in doubt, well ... they are being PAID by the publishers of the games they review. I mean really, the situation is something akin to asking a car-salesman on commission which car has most value for the money. He might give you a straight answer, but he might as well not.

I don't care how "professional" you are, accepting payment from game publishers in this context is in itself an issue with integrity. Even if game reviews aren't as "serious" a business, there's a reason why independent auditing boards are required to not have stakes in the companies they audit.

Per default, Gamespot has issues with integrity, since they accept money from major game publishers. I thought that was more or less understood and accepted by everyone. Guess I'm sort of blue-eyed cynical?

Sure, I knew they were a little biased, but not to the point of so obviously firing one of their own editors for an honest negative review. That goes from "sleazy" to downright "wrong".

LordOmnit:
Oh, of course they end with MORE ADVERTISING. And the way they worded it, they couldn't have been more clear except by saying, "Hey! It's all because of the review!" If they want to say it isn't because of that, then they should give a better reason, even something pretty vague would be fine, but outright saying, "We won't tell you. Nyah nyah nyah!" is a surefire way to get people to think the opposite.

That may well be true given that people tend to enjoy wild conspiracy theories more than boring truth. The fact is that an employee's contract with their private company employer is confidential. Just because the circumstances surrounding the firing are a bit suspect, and they've caused some understandable consternation, doesn't mean that CNET are under any obligation to tell anyone a thing. It's no-one's business but CNET's and Gerstmann's.

Yeah, I understand that, but being totally sealed lipped about it, except for what they are saying isn't the reason should be more than a bit suspect to anyone. And believe it or not, I'm the guy who always is against the idea of conspiracy theories.

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