After yesterday's news piece covering Rowan Kaiser's review of Paradox Interactive's Stellaris and the conflicts of interest it raised, IGN's Executive Editor of Reviews, Dan Stapleton made comment on the whole affair via twitter after I not so suddenly poked the proverbial bear.
Admittedly my Twitter is the Mos Eisley Cantina of Tweets
But when faced with the situation, Stapleton noted another conflict of interest in the process of saying why there was not conflict of interest.
Uh huh. So this is why he regularly appears on Paradox's PR guy's podcast, and is on all their press lists?
The two points he addressed are rather bi-polar in nature. Note, it is fairly easy to be a part of a press list as long as you meet minimum requirement, and is standard affair. Black listing from press lists is a rarity reserved for those who have done legitimate harm directly to the company such as breaking NDA or Embargos. Being a part of a PR member's podcast is another story, and should be disclosed. As stated by IGN's own Standards and Practices under Relationships:
IGN's been around a long time, and some of the people who used to work here now work at companies that make the products we cover. Conversely, some people who work here currently, used to work at those same companies. Coverage assignments are managed so that we can avoid any possible conflict of interest. If we feel it's necessary to cover a game or movie made by a former employee, that coverage will be handled by a freelancer or staffer who had no close personal relationship with the former employee. Current employees are also restricted from covering products they used to work on before they came to IGN.
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.
It should also be known that there are many instances where journalists have a more favorable outlook on members of PR companies then the publishers and developers they represent, but it is normally something press keeps under tongue out of professionalism. Stapleton states in response;
It really isn't. If a PR rep is publicly friendly with someone who openly hated their company, it wouldn't go over well.
When pressed further Stapleton stated that it was a "mountain of a molehill" situation, and that the conflict that arose directly from Rowan Kaiser and further perpetuated by his actions in regards to John Bain(AKA Total Biscuit) and the endorsement he received from Paradox Interactive, creators of Stellaris, has "[...]nothing to do with Stellaris." At the time of the incident it was publicly known by all parties that Bain was dealing with a rebounding cancer which he has been fighting for some time, and with the torrent of lies and allegations Bain had to step away from Social Media to regroup from the undue stress. The incident left many of games media top star lambasting Kaiser as well as those who participated with the abuse.
I requested a formal comment on the issue as to find a clear statement, but I was redirected to our Twitter conversation.
When Twitter user @TombaHat subsequently asked "@DanStapleton do you at least understand that there seems to be a huge disconnect between ign and its audience?" Stapleton Replied with;
Do you understand that our audience is so massive that no matter what we say some people will agree and some will disagree?
A fairly interesting point, leaving a fairly important question to be asked; has IGN grown too large? With the most pull in the industry monopolizing coverage, having access to the biggest pool of resources, and dominating E3 they have become the destination for the casual reader. It is looked at as a corporate entity by those individuals, which masks the individuals controlling the conversation at the company, leaving the assumption of objective when it is all but.