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RIP Ralph Baer (1922-2014) I really, really hate writing obits. I really do. But I take it as a personal honor to be able to say good things about the men and women I respect, whether in this industry or just in my life, and Ralph Baer is the reason all of this exists in the first...

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Developer 'Suspicious' Of Journalists. I Blame PR.

Posted on Tuesday, July 31 @ 10:34:13 Eastern by


Thatgamecompany co-founder and creative genius behind some of the most artistic games to release during this generation of consoles, Jenova Chen, said on Twitter that he's become "suspicious" of journalists. This statement was in response to another developer, Jane McGonigal, making a comment on Twitter about how journalists use "frankenquotes" that barely resemble what was said during an interview.

While it's true that many journalists do indeed take quotes too far out of context to make for punchier headlines, the blame can't completely be aimed at journalists. 

I blame PR.

I've done my fair share of interviews, putting in hours ahead of time preparing questions specifically crafted to get vital and interesting information as response to what I ask. In rare cases, I'll leave the interview thrilled with the details I've obtained from my Q&A. But nine times out of ten, my hard work goes to waste because a PR rep is hovering over whatever particular developer I'm interviewing, ensuring that nothing slips out that they're not yet ready to share.

I get that. That's a PR rep's job. But all they're doing is preventing journalists from doing their job.

It makes the developer uncomfortable, and any questions you've designed to invoke an interesting reply, earns you nothing more than a "no comment" or a "we're not yet ready to discuss that".



Imagine your excitement landing an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto or Hideo Kojima. Now imagine your expectations on how this interview is going to go, only to be crushed to find out they're not willing to say much of anything meaninful to you. Again imagine this interview turns out so disappointing, there isn't even much of a reason for you to publish it, in full or by pulling any quotes.

Don't take the interview in the first place, then. Or at least don't be surprised when a journalist takes the one halfway-interesting quote you've given them and turn it into something semi-grabbing to garner interest. Because it's their job to do so. They have their own expectations of the interview. Their superiors are expecting something juicy. Their audience deserves to get something out of the time you spend preparing and asking these questions.

This is just one of many examples of a broken industry. The blame can't lie on journalists in full. Nor should it really lie on PR or the developers, either. Journalists create these out-of-context headlines because they're not given enough legitimate information. Journalists aren't given enough legitimate information because they (read: some of them) take these quotes and turn them into "frankenquotes".

It's a never-ending cycle of garbage, and it's not going to change. But don't be suspicious of journalists, as we're just as suspicious of you, and especially PR.
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