A recent article titled “The Game Developers Who Are Also Witches” was published on Kotaku March 9th, 2017 by Chris Priestman. The article features a series of short snippets discussing witchcraft and the developers who identify as witches. The article, however, fails to disclose the fact that there are financial ties between Chris Priestman and his friend Aevee Bee.
Kotaku in Action user SixtyFours did a brief rundown of the situation, explaining that Priestman’s piece covers a game from developer Aevee Bee. On their Patreon page it’s noted that Aevee Bee is creating “Mammon Machine: Zeal”. Archives of Chris Priestman’s Patreon page show that he’s been financially supporting the Mammon Machine project. A separate archive on the Wayback Machine specifically shows that Priestman has financial ties to Aevee Bee.
Typically these kind of ethical breaches tend to fall by the wayside, but in this particular case SixtyFours pointed to a previous rule set in place by Kotaku’s editor-in-chief, Stephen Totilo, where he explicitly mentioned that these kind of connections should be mentioned or disclosed. To quote from Totilo’s amended piece about Kotaku’s approach to reporting – from August 26th, 2014 – he states…
“We agree on the need to ensure that, on the occasion where there is a personal connection between a writer and a developer, it’s mentioned.
“After some discussion, as noted here, we will make a minor exception and permit a writer paying 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”
Priestman’s coverage of Aevee Bee’s game has no disclosure, and if it were not for the post on Kotaku in Action, this lapse in the practice of ethical journalism would have gone unnoticed.
Some people feel as if it doesn’t matter if a journalist is paying a designer and promoting their game without disclosure, but others feel as if it’s abusing a broadcasting position in order to help a friend, and at the very least the general public should be made aware of such things. Disclosure has been a difficult topic to enforce on games media outlets, and attempting to encourage better ethics in media journalism resulted in the media throwing a digital tantrum and saying that “gamers are dead”.
I reached out to Priestman for comment, and will update the article if he chooses to respond.
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