Late last week, IGN — the biggest gaming news site in the world in terms of traffic — posted an inoffensive call to action for Palestinian charities. The page, which encouraged humanitarian aid in the wake of sustained military attacks and massive casualties from the Israeli Defense Force, was accompanied by the IGN logo briefly adding the Palestinian flag next to it and a tweet expressing support an end to the violence.
By Saturday, all of that was gone.
While IGN initially took the blame for backtracking on this, multiple sources have told Fanbyte that the fault lies with the corporate parent company that overrode an editorial decision. The outlet’s owners, an American technology company called J2 Global, acquired IGN from Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp in 2013 and have mostly chosen not to interfere with the site’s editorial content until recently. A phone call to IGN leadership on Sunday morning informed them that the article was being removed and the tweet deleted without any input or rebuttals from the staff that posted it in the first place.
On Sunday night, a tweet went up from the IGN account purporting to explain the article’s removal. The tweet contained an image of text saying IGN regretted only posting Palestinian charities and did not wish to be seen taking sides. It was posted at 11:21 PM PT and, we’re told, did not come from IGN editorial or with the approval or consent of the editorial staff. It also represents one of the biggest breaches of trust between corporate ownership and journalistic outlets in the last decade, if not longer.
It’s an unfortunate reality that a lot of major journalism outlets require corporate backing for the necessary resources to do their jobs. There is a hopeful understanding, however, that the backing does not come with strings or editorial oversight that compromise a free and independent press. This is unfortunately not always the case and history is littered with examples of corporate overreach that puts the medium as a concept in jeopardy.
When IGN’s owners interfere with their editorial staff, it does much the same thing. It harms all journalism, as even the biggest gaming site on the internet for literal decades is not immune to the corporate malfeasance that gives every journalist pause. It’s impossible to do the job when you always have in the back of your mind that your bosses will hang you out to dry if they ever disagree with what your other bosses encourage. It’s impossible to report on reality if you’re being coerced into a subjective corporate version of it.
Game Informer, my former employer, also posted a similar page to IGN with links to charities and it also mysteriously disappeared over the weekend. It is unclear if the outlet’s owner GameStop was involved, but the removal sends a strong implication that the topic is verboten for some journalistic outlets to cover. When two of the industry’s giants find themselves on their back heels for encouraging benign humanitarian aid, it is time to ring the alarm bells.
The games journalism industry especially is growing in fits and starts and is still largely figuring itself out. A number of outlets would likely not consider this their beat or have policies preventing them from speaking out in the first place, which makes it all the more important that sites like IGN, Game Informer, GameSpot, and others do involve themselves. When their ability to do that is forcibly taken away, we all suffer for it.
It’s unclear what J2 Global or GameStop’s long term plans are with their journalism subsidiaries, but it is hard to imagine either entity thought beyond the immediate short term. My sympathies go out to staff at both IGN and Game Informer for committing the seemingly unforgivable sin of doing their jobs and thinking beyond themselves.