A cautionary tale on Online Journalism: Team Bondi, L.A. Noire and The Truth

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Andrew McMillen took part last weekend in Brisbane for the Emerging Writers Festival in a panel titled “Writing online – How different is writing for an online audience, how can you do it creatively, and what are the challenges and opportunities for writers working in this field?”. You may know Andrew for his incredible body of work touching a variety of local games industry related topics such as the Australian Games Education, Entering the industry, The state of the industry in 2012, The State of Triple-A Game Development in Australia, as well as the first interview with Robert Walsh, Krome Studios CEO after the studio's widely reported closure last year.

His biggest feature to date, however, is his expose on Team Bondi earlier this year which gave an eye-opening look behind the work conditions at the Sydney based L.A Noire developer through the contributing comments of eleven anonymous ex-Team Bondi employees as well as Team Bondi founder and studio head, Brendan McNamara.

Andrew's talk at the festival is a cautionary tale on online publishing, where online gaming media outlets quickly summarised, misquoted, and sensationalised his carefully researched and produced publication, discovering that many did little in the way of fact-checking the details within. From his presentation...

My four months of patient work – including building trust with my sources, and many conversations with IGN’s editors about the story’s final shape – were reduced to a handful of quotes and rushed summaries rewritten by other gaming journalists. To my knowledge, nobody tried to track down my 11 sources and verify what they were saying, nor did anyone seek additional comment from Team Bondi.

One of the notable quotes to come from Andrew's expose came from one anonymous contributor which described Rockstar's relationship with Team Bondi as badly damaged to the point where the publisher will not be collaborating on any further projects with the Sydney studio. Much to Andrew's disappointment, that particular quote was branded as fact on a few sites which negligently failed to disclose the origin of it.

As news of his work circulated around on news sites internationally, he's found that readers quickly tend to believe what they read online as truths, particularly when there is an absence of a response to any allegations. Andrew expresses how easy it would be for journalists to be lured towards visitor hit numbers by sensationalist or controversial reporting, and urges other journalists to retain their integrity by not to taking that path.

The video of the presentation is embedded below and at Andrew's blog, so have a look and feel free to provide him some feedback...

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