Among the points of concern Gary raises:
- GameCyte managing editor Jason Babler is simultaneously employed as a creative director at TriplePoint.
- Richard Kain is an investor in Telltale Games. Telltale Games was once a client of TriplePoint. Neither relationship was disclosed in GameCyte's positive reviews of any Telltale titles.
- GameCyte's review of Off Road, published by TriplePoint client Empire Interactive, was among the most positive to be found anywhere.
I'll be honest: I never heard of GameCyte before I read this story. If Kain's claim of 62,000 unique visitors last month is true, then it's not a massive site by any means. And it's well within the realm of possibility that the GameCyte staff is doing solid, independent work. But in journalism, transparency is everything.
Gary sums it up when he says this system is "designed in a way that allows for abuse." That doesn't mean it has been abused, only that the possibility is there. And once you open the door to that kind of suspicion, your credibility among your readers is shot -- or ought to be. The simple remedy is disclosure. That's standard practice for newspapers, and if Kain wants to defend the quality of his site's journalism then he ought to hold it up to the same standard.
It seems that since Gary started talking to the GameCyte and TriplePoint people, they have revised their About pages to include more information about the relationship. If you want to know what games journalism really looks like, read the whole interview. Incredible stuff.
Update: Dan Kennedy at Media Nation, writing on a different topic, shares a hilarious aphorism about conflict-of-interest that I'd never heard before: "You can fuck an elephant if you want to, but if you do you can't cover the circus."