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The Rise of Cut and Paste ‘Journalism’

Commentators have often lamented how the rise of the internet has turned every amateur into a professional overnight. Often these pieces are written by bitter traditionalists clinging onto the false pretense that print journalism somehow has a higher standard by default. But you really don’t need to look far to see that print journalists are not more or less fallible than us online ‘amateurs’. Just look at the recent Sun piece on the 3DS as a perfect example of reporting that’s closer to fiction than anything else. There are some extremely talented and knowledgeable online games journalists out there. So please don’t take this as a rant against online journalism in general, this is squarely aimed at those that don’t get the concept that being a news source carries some responsibility.

There are countless game ‘news’ websites out there that contribute about 5% of their own content and simple cut and paste the rest from what they pick up off other sites. Where the issue arises is if the news they are picking up is false, unsubstantiated, and worse still, damaging to the company it’s referring to. I’ve seen examples of press releases that still had text that said “insert date”, or “partner quote here”. Which is also pretty poor showing by a publisher to let something like that leave the building but it gives you an idea about how much time goes into reviewing the ‘news’ content that’s posted by some sites. With this level of attention to detail it’s not surprising that some stories have spread like wildfire that have zero foundation in truth. The amazing thing is that up to 20 or 30 sites can run one such story as news and not one of them will bother picking up the phone or dropping an email to the publisher to even ask if it’s true, or try substantiate the source in any way. And the irony is that when you ask for a correction sites will often refuse to edit or even remove the wrong story mumbling about something about how that’s not their policy.

In an ideal world sites that run game news should either quote the original source of the news, thereby putting the responsibility on the source. And if they run any piece as their own, they should at least try and verify it with the publishers or developers being talked about. As is always the way with news, bad press tends to spread much quicker than positive press so the negative stories are propagated much quicker and travel further than a positive and probably accurate story would. I doubt this trend isn’t going to change anytime soon but my hope is that the younger news sites look to the good examples that are out there (VG247, Gamasutra) rather than compete with the hacks in a who can cut and paste quicker contest.

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