- Justification can be a slippery slope. But as a journalist, you sometimes need to make tough decisions fast and you need to be firm in your reasoning. For me, that reasoning has always been: "Who will this hurt, who will this help, and will it help more overall?"
- But in recent months, I've learned ethics in game journalism starts and stops with "how will this help us financially or how will this hurt us?"
- Four months ago, I revealed the identity of a transgender individual involved in an ongoing online scam in hopes of ending it and its repercussions, in addition to preventing myself and employer from becoming an accessory. I'm not here to write about that, as I and others have before, but rather to tell the true story of what occurred before at Destructoid and what occurred after within the greater game journalist community.
- I'm writing this now because I have decided I am done with game journalism, in spite of it being done with me months ago, and that enough time has passed to let parties make the right decisions -- time passed and they didn't. I've kept silent due to threats against me by Destructoid's Publisher Yanier 'Niero' Gonzalez -- that he would change my byline to "WORST EMPLOYEE EVER DO NOT HIRE!" on all articles and possibly delete my work from the past two years -- but I have decided I shouldn't let fear rule my life.
- I'll address the complicated ethics and justifications of my actions soon, but I'd rather be transparent and forward on my feelings for writing this, first. I believe game journalism has failed me, writers, and especially readers. And not until the full truth is out and people can be held accountable will ever improve.
- Quite simply, I was fired for an absurd reason: the company not being able to afford a lawyer should they even need one which they didn't at the time. I could live with that.
- But then, I was publicly shamed and had my career destroyed when Niero Gonzalez, several days later, made a forum post saying I was fired for disobeying an order to hold a story and to go on Twitter during my suspension. Both alleged accounts of insubordination were false.
- 1) There was never an order to hold the story, only encouragement to further research. Niero, who never advised my editorial before, merely stated on May 12, following reports of Chloe Segal's suicide attempt broadcasted on Twitch: "I wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole." As someone who has never given me editorial input, this sounds like opinion. Even then, it's not clear what the opinion is on: Is it reporting a suicide or the ongoing scam (which he knew of at the time)? And if this is a serious concern, why aren't any of the managing editors who told me to hold stories in the past speaking out?
- Anyway you cut it, it does not add up to a command to hold a story. There was no order to disobey.
- 2) I was terminated on May 17, after which I immediately go back on Twitter. So, I did not return to Twitter during my suspension but only after being fired from the company. My firing wasn't made public at the time, possibly to build the narrative of me being active on Twitter during suspension so the above accusation could eventually be made for the company's benefit.
- I am writing this out of public interest. As a game journalist who interviewed many of the greats and traveled the world, I was exposed to things the public never sees. I was able to ignore the conversations about paid reviews, flirting between journalists and PR, and the smug expectation for high class food and service on press trips that many veterans have. It was all corrupt but it was never ubiquitous or major enough to raise a red flag. Only after me being fired did I realize how ethically bankrupt this industry is and how accepted norms of ignoring corruption at other outlets led to me being where I'm at: Unhirable.
- Let me rewind a bit to how managing editors at Destructoid handled Chloe Segal.
- Who did it hurt? Her. The severity of my actions, as it's a great offense to out her identity even if it was only a virtual one, were not lost on me before I acted.
- Who did it help?
- There are a couple major factors to this story I haven't previously discussed in hopes of protecting people I thought would do the right thing in time, but time has passed and they haven't. On the morning of May 13, I was told by Destructoid's associate editor Chris Carter:
- "I'm actually seeing people blame Indiegogo for "killing her," with people calling for a boycott, and I've even seen a few death threats to Indiegogo staff. I've also seen a few people call to boycott Twitch.
- To think this scammer is getting away with everything, and is passing the blame is pretty unbelievable."
- This was followed by a month of back and forth with Destructoid staff, but rarely my managing editors who, in the past, gave me commands to change or stop a story. What I got instead was encouragement to pursue the story from Destructoid Publisher Niero Gonzalez (who rarely if ever gives editorial feedback to staff), associate editor Jonathan Holmes mocking me for taking Chloe's suicide attempts seriously, and complete silence from the managing editors who advised me through ethically complex issues in the past (mainly Conrad Zimmerman, but by title Editor-in-Chief Dale North, News Manager Jordan Devore, and Managing Editor Hamza Aziz should have chimed in especially given the serious actions that were to follow).
- I updated senior staff with every update, to make sure we were all on the same page and accountable. Instead of guiding the discussion, managing staff decided to keep quiet and ignore the ethical dilemma.
- With the sudden information that A) Chloe was safe in a hospital, B) a mob against charity site IndieGoGo was forming (death threats and public protest included) and C) not only did people not know they were scammed but there was discussion of starting new charities for Chloe, I realized I was the only one who could prevent further harm and this would be the only time I could do it without Chloe killing herself in reaction.
- The thing is, there was never really a mob. I acted on bad information given to me by staff. From the start, I took responsibility for my actions but I did so expecting my staff would back me and be honest as well. Instead, they turned a cold shoulder and fed me to the wolves.
- After being falsely branded a freelancer (IRS says 1099's don't manage staff or use equipment, among other things), refused unemployment, fired for a reason outside of contract, publicly shamed and accused of two counts of insubordination, I was upset. I lost my friends, my job, my income, and -- I would soon learn -- my career. No one wants to work with a journalist accused of insubordination or involved with controversy (all stirred up and promoted by my employer's actions).
- But I thought, I have the proof of how things really went down. I have the email where Niero Gonzalez encouraged an investigation rather than told me to hold on April 9, as he told the public. I have the email where associate editor Johnathan Holmes mocked me for taking Chloe's suicide attempts seriously. I have the email where associate editor Chris Carter fed me false information on death threats against IndieGoGo and Twitch forming. All of which led me to reveal Chloe's identity (but never birth name or address) for the sake of ending possible harm to others via further scam charities and alleged death threats.
- So, I brought this proof to every major website. I thought if I were them, I would want to look into this as a journalist because this is a sweeping display of corruption within a prominent game business. If nothing else, hear the other side of the story because you can bet they've heard Niero's. I thought they would recognize my background, working with CNN and national newspaper correspondents at University, and my output of thorough articles and at least give me a chance.
- Except, nobody did. Nobody wanted to risk writing about a fellow game site because, in more ways than one, they are all in bed together. It's easier to keep the exclusive club intact than to tackle this ethically complex issue. And above all, there was no immediate financial incentive to reporting corruption in game journalism since it wouldn't get the views that reporting corruption in game studios would.
- Instead, I got a Kotaku reporter, Patricia Hernandez, who wanted me to reveal more private details on Chloe -- even though Hernandez is a close friend with Anna Anthropy (even hanging out together on the day email was sent, according to her Twitter), my biggest detractor that started the mob that asked for me to be fired. Certainly, a conflict of interest a managing editor would question? Apparently, not. I would later learn the site blacklisted me and weren't the only one.
- Instead, I got Joystiq editor Alexander Sliwinski who called me out of curiosity and laughed at the absurd actions of Destructoid's managing staff. I felt hopeful. He said that would never happen at Joystiq because they can afford lawyers and don't throw staff under the bus. But in the end, it was all just a cute story for him to tell others for a laugh. He never spoke to me again or agreed to help me.
- Instead, I got calls from other journalists involved in past controversies telling me that you can't trust other journalists to help you, and that you need to keep your head down and accept your situation. That situation being, the site you worked for is corrupt and no one else cares.
- Instead, I got editors from other sites saying "Not our problem." Well, of course it's not but don't you report on corruption when you see it, even if it's happening on the press side?
- Since I was a kid, I loved following the game industry through publications I trusted. I've lost that trust and love for game journalism this summer. I can write this now because I have decided to never work in game journalism again. Sure, it was done with me before I was done with it but making that decision was a key factor in giving the full story behind me leaving Destructoid. I kept silent on how Destructoid's managing staff acted throughout my investigation because Niero's threats. But now those threats means little, as I walk away from game journalism to pursue more exciting, positive adventures that won't be tied to corruption and politics.
- I do not aim to take down Destructoid. I could have sued months ago but I never wanted to give up months of productivity for that (which would lead to little, as they are on the verge of bankruptcy, not just figuratively). I only want the full truth to be out there so people can make informed decisions on who you support in game journalism and how you support them.
- I feel game journalists have failed me, but as someone who now neither writes the news nor reads the news (except Giant Bomb!), that doesn't mean much. What's important is that game journalists are failing you.
- What happened to me isn't an isolated phenomenon but rather indicative of the corruption within game journalism that comes from financial factors leading ethics (ex. article on game that objectifies women while having headline close-ups of breasts on other articles) and game journalists being too close to each other.
- Sometimes that's good, as when journalists protested Jeff Gerstmann when he was fired for giving a negative review to a game the site promoted. But in my case, that camaraderie made way for a culture where it's okay to turn an eye to corruption because there is no easy way to make it right and no immediate financial benefit in doing so. And by ignoring another's corruption, you can feel safe knowing they'll ignore YOUR corruption in the future.
- I'd like to think that maybe others in the industry are blind to the corruption that occurred, but I know better by watching Destructoid managing staff's reactions: the ones who knew the truth from the start.
- When I spoke to Jim Sterling after being fired on May 17, I asked him: "Do you think what Niero did was okay?" It was the only time I ever heard him cry. All he could say is "I don't know." The same followed with other Modern Method staff I spoke with in recent months. They all know it was wrong, feel guilty, but are too cowardly to admit it. Trying to make it right isn't even imaginable.
- In game journalism, you don't do what is right. You do what you're told. I like to think the gaming websites we give our time, dedication, and attention can treat all of us better than that.
- I realize I could have done some things better, but I also realize that it was a lack of ethics among staff and the industry that led me to my decision and showed me to the door after. I wish I could tell the truth, do right by readers, and still have a job. But, as outlets currently stand, it's not that easy. Managing editors of sites are all too happy to abuse their power.
- If you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer. I'm done keeping silent and being shamed by others in the industry.
Reddit Confession - Allistair Pinsof
a guest Oct 17th, 2014 13,108 Never
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