VGMWatch.com has been able to confirm that IGN Nintendo editor Matt Casamassina is married to Golin Harris Vice President Edie Kissko. Golin Harris serves as Nintendo’s PR firm. Sources connected with both Golin Harris and IGN.com were able to validate this information. While VGMWatch has no interest in personal affairs, undisclosed conflicts of interest plaguing the game industry’s integrity cannot be ignored. To that end, there are several journalistic red flags surrounding the facts of this case.
Unfortunately, we have yet to discover any public acknowledgment from either Nintendo, Golin Harris, or IGN Entertainment informing customers of this conflict of interest. Furthermore, IGN.com has continued to allow the Nintendo channel editor to manage Nintendo product coverage. Likewise, the Golin Harris VP in question is responsible for promoting Nintendo products. Clearly, millions of IGN readers’ trust has been violated by this irresponsible abandonment of principle.
Make no mistake, people cannot help with whom they fall in love. As such, the personal integrity of the two individuals involved with this case is completely irrelevant. Indeed, it is principle and principle alone which concerns VGMWatch. The buck stops with IGN and Nintendo to address any conflicts of interest they may have. Simply put, the line between product coverage and sales should be clear and uncompromised. The mere appearance of journalistic impropriety of this magnitude should be avoided.
When game media outlets and publishers taint product coverage it hurts the industry as a whole. Gamers should not tolerate this type of gross irresponsibility. It is also completely unfair to the game publications and publishers that do practice integrity and sound business principle. Frankly, we are tired of seeing reputable industry outlets dragged into the mud due to the careless actions of others. Let’s face it, a newspaper dining critic would not be allowed to review a restaurant his/her spouse managed. If the publication was aware of the potential for conflict of interest, the journalist would most likely not even be allowed to review any restaurants in town. This is basic journalistic integrity consumers expect. The game industry deserves nothing less.
Needless to say, we are disappointed with IGN.com. However, we do want to offer some advice to the network to remedy this situation. First, we strongly urge IGN to not make the network editor a scapegoat in an effort to save face. It is the network’s responsibility to deal with these issues, not the employee. Furthermore, IGN.com should issue a public statement to its readers regarding the conflict of interest. Also, the Nintendo editor should be assigned editorial coverage that does not conflict with his/her personal relationship. We strongly urge Golin Harris/Nintendo to take similar measures on its end.
We contacted IGN and Golin Harris representatives as well as the individuals directly involved. Currently, we have received comment from Golin Harris:â€œAll GolinHarris employees who work on the Nintendo account sign and adhere to a strict confidentiality agreement.â€ VGMWatch will continue to investigate this story and any other conflicts of interest that come to our attention.
Updated Editor’s Personal Note: I was uncomfortable publishing this story. In fact, I have been sitting on this piece for many months debating whether to run it or not. However, with the game media beginning to take a closer look at cases of corruption, it is time to address this issue. Personally, I find it sickening that these companies’ mistakes happen to be connected with personal affairs.
That’s why, rightly or wrongly, I refuse to mention the two individuals’ names. The original story I published did not contain the individual’s names. However, after recommendations from fellow journalists, I have reluctantly decided to disclose the names of the individuals involved. Unfortunately, there is an element of responsibility that falls on the individuals involved as well. Nevertheless, I respect them personally and realize that marriage is a wonderful institution. Rather, my frustration is completely directed towards IGN, Nintendo, and Golin Harris. While it was very difficult for me to publish this type of story, I could not in good conscience continue to shelve it. I also understand that some folks inside the industry have known of this marriage already. However, it would be disingenuous for our publication to not report on such a conflict of interest for the general gaming public. Hopefully, if we continue to engage in open dialog regarding problematic issues facing game journalism we can aid this industry in its maturation.
Update: For clarity, I want to reiterate the central point of the article. This story is about full disclosure on the part of IGN and Nintendo/Golin Harris. It is utterly disrespectful to their readership to not disclose this situation. The personal integrity of the two individuals is irrelevant. It is also unnecessary to assume that there have been any competitive advantages gained with this situation. Rather, IGN and Golin Harris need to disclose this type of information directly to their readers to avoid any appearance of conflicting interests. For example, if we were to find out tomorrow that Katie Couric and George W. Bush were lovers and neither CBS or the White House reported it, we would all be outraged. Just because Couric may have done X amount of negative pieces on Bushâ€™s administration, it doesnâ€™t give the problem of conflicting interests a free pass. I hope you can see the connection here.
Update 2: Golin Harris has issued this statement in regard to the story:
â€œAll GolinHarris employees who work on the Nintendo account sign and adhere to a strict confidentiality agreement.â€