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June 1, 2010

Journalistic Ethics?

No, this is not a comment on today's lapdog media. Instead, it's a question I put to you. And while the subject matter is video game related, it is kind of a universal question.

I've been a big fan of the Official Xbox Magazine podcast for a while now. The duo of Dan Americh and Ryan McCaffrey really made it a joy to listen to. When Dan left to be the Community Manager at Activision (and set up the One of Swords podcast and blog), it left a hole in the podcast. Ryan has done a marvelous job doing it on his own (with the capable assistance of Andy Bauman), though.

The two guys are very good friends, and they make a great team.

So it's only natural that a lot of people are suggesting that Dan ask Ryan to be a guest on his One of Swords podcast.

But would that be improper? Would it hurt Ryan's reputation as a journalist, despite the fact that it's common knowledge that the two are buddies anyway?

I asked Dan that question on Formspring (damn, I wish you could link to individual questions so I didn't have to copy his answer). Here is his response:

"I worry the same way. We both know there are cynics who will look to create problems where they do not exist, especially when it comes to Activision, which has become the company people love to hate for any reason -- even if that reason has to be created. So I have been trying not to have media folks on the show so that people did not suggest that I was currying favor or trying to sway anybody. I think the people who know me know that I speak for myself and I'm quite transparent about what I'm doing, but at the same time, I try to put myself in the mind of an irrational hater and I'm learning to choose my words and actions carefully so as not to give those people any sort of ammo. It wouldn't be a problem for you and it wouldn't be a problem for me -- but I do have a concern that someone who does not have an understanding like we have (someone who doesn't read my blog or currently listen to the podcast) would mistake my personal friendships for professional statements.

I had Andy Eddy on during a brief period that he was unemployed, but the sad fact is that a lot of my friends were or are actively working as games reviewers or journalists -- and I do not want my invitation to come back to bite them in the ass, either."

I'm of two minds on this question. The logical side of me says that yes, this would affect things and that Dan is quite correct to be concerned about Ryan's reputation. Like it or not, Dan is working for Activision now, so Ryan appearing on what could be considered an "official" podcast put out by Activision might look like Activision currying favour with a video games journalist.

On the other hand, they are buddies, and anybody with any knowledge whatsoever already knows that fact. If Ryan was going to allow Dan's working at Activision to affect his opinion on things, it would have already happened. He doesn't need to appear on a podcast in order for that assumption to be made.

Unfortunately, as Dan points out, it only takes a few people (or one or two in a more powerful position) to make a bad assumption to have everything go to Hell. Inevitably, somebody who doesn't know what they're talking about would start shouting from the rooftops that the magazine is now officially in the pocket of Activision, just because Ryan McCaffrey appeared on the One of Swords podcast one time.

So my heart wants to believe in the second point above, but my head (and, sadly, probably reality) believes in the first. It will never happen.

I'd be interested in your thoughts, though. Do you think it would affect Ryan's rep? And even if you think it would, should it?

Edit #1 (6/1/10): Wow, thanks for tweeting this out, Dan! More traffic than I've seen...well, since this blog's inception. Welcome to the new visitors!


  1. I believe it's always better to error on the side of caution which unfortunately means Dan shouldn't have him on. I think ethics in the media is a very important thing that has been lost in this day & age. It's a sad state that a friend can't talk to a friend but I believe it's the correct answer to this question.

    Hope it helps,



  2. Finally, a comment! LOL Thanks, Bill.

    Yep, that was pretty much my conclusion as well.


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