Corruption in Journalism
First of all, this was all brought up by Dan Hsu at EGM in his recent editorial. Its caused a big stink in the industry; moreso than most of you can see actually. In my opinion, Dan risked his job when he wrote that... kinda ballsy. He said, basically, there are people out there who are taking bribes in the form of ads to misrepresent the quality of games and the quantity of coverage dedicated to it.
Now your reactions should be "Well duh." and "So why didn't he say WHO!?"
The reason why is because he doesnt want to lose his job and cause EGM to go under with libel lawsuits. You can't just say magazine X is taking bribes: It would be so difficult to prove you were telling the truth AND it would be fairly easy for them to show economic damage from your writing.
So does it really happen? You bet it does. It happens to me a lot; not usually with large magazines and websites, but with the smaller ones. It ESPECIALLY happens with websites. I have found the further from "professional press" you get, the more rampant this becomes.
Is it a problem? No. Not exactly, at least.
This is my stance on the subject:
As long as the editor(s) in question offers to cover your product regardless of advertising or compensation, that is fine. If second, third, fourth, features, or "minimum scores" can be purchased; that is ok too. I consider it a form of value added advertising. It isn't very ethical, but you can't really stop it. As long as they are covering items independent of this practice, they are still OK in my book. If 10,000 dollars can buy you a five article spread on a fairly sizeable website I considering it nothing more than an advertorial. If you need 1,000 dollars to get the FIRST article on that site, I consider it corruption.
It doesn't say much for my belief in free journalism.
And for those who question if this was merely an EGM/CGW power play to gain an upper hand over the competition I can say...
CGW (owned by the same company as EGM) has never once brought this subject up to me and are, by far, the most likely major magazine to cover independent games. It doesn't mean it wasn't a power play, but I do not believe them to be corrupt by any standard at this time.
Journalists have been corrupt since the invetion of the printing press. Some of them are business men, and those are the dangerous ones.