Code of Ethics

Highland Arrow Code of Ethics

Objective

It is imperative to report fairly and respectfully on the games we criticise and the news we report upon.

Updates

This is the fourth revision of this document, originally referred to as our Review Policy, and first published Feb 15, 2014, split into the Code of Ethics and Review policy with the publishing of the Code of Ethics on Oct 26 2014. This version is current as of June 17th, 2015. The old revision is available here, for reference.

Availability

Permission is hereby given to copy, redistribute, or use this policy as the basis for other documents, provided attribution is given to Highland Arrow.


Strive for Objectivity

True and complete objectivity is not possible, but that does not free us from a responsibility to try to be as objective as possible.

Our writers and editors should:

  • Take responsibility for the accuracy of reporting or criticism
  • Explain central game mechanics as is relevant to reviews
  • Take proper time, care, and consideration to investigate games for review or news to report, and disclose the time and methods taken
  • Accept no consideration in exchange for a review, preview or news piece except for review or preview code, or otherwise, the product for review
  • Avoid involvement in review events, brand deals, or other such arrangements
  • Accept no considerations or accommodations in regards to attending industry events
  • Clearly identify sources in an article if third party sources are used, unless they are given under condition of anonymity
  • Seek verifiable, certifiable sources in the stead of anonymous sources when possible
  • Avoid taking sources out of context; always strive to make the context of a given source clear. Provide quotes wholly, when it is reasonable to do so
  • Always endeavour to investigate and corroborate claims which are made
  • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
  • Avoid conflict of interest situations, when reasonably possible
  • Disclose conflict of interest situations, when avoiding them is not reasonably possible
  • Disclose any personal and professional relationships which may present a conflict of interest
  • Clearly disclose when the product mentioned in a review or preview was provided free of charge for review or preview, and identify whom provided the copy
  • Likewise and inversely, clearly disclose when the product mentioned in a review or preview was purchased by the reviewer themselves for purposes of review
  • Avoid industry entanglements that can be reasonably avoided, disclose those which cannot
  • Keep in mind that avoiding the appearance of impropriety can be just as important as avoiding actual impropriety; consider the opinions of the audience on ethical matters
  • Avoid a product review or news article appearing as an advertisement for the product; strive to be objective in considerations and avoid “weasel words”

Strive for Empathy

The highest concern of any games journalist is for the gamer – for the consumers of our media and of the products we review.  As such it is important to be kind and fair to that audience.

Our writers and editors should:

  • Refrain when possible from making value judgements in an article about sexuality, gender identity, racial identity, or religious beliefs of a person or persons
  • Handle the issues of sexuality, gender identity, racial identity, mental and physical health, or religious beliefs of a person or persons with care when they must be addressed
  • Avoid giving disproportionate emphasis to any one side or viewpoint when reporting on events, and consider the various sensibilities of consumers when reviewing a product for review
  • Avoid giving disproportionate emphasis to aspects of a game in a review
  • Explain ethical choices and concerns to our readers, both in the context of our writing, and those of products for review
  • When reporting news, balance our readership’s right to know against the potential of harm to individuals who may be harmed by the disclosure of information
  • Remember that simply because information is legally available to us that it does not necessarily follow that it is ethical for us to publish it
  • Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity through crafting controversial headlines, “clickbaiting” or other such harmful practices
  • Respect the civil rights and liberties of all those involved in our news and reviews
  • Avoid stereotyping social groups, and avoid conflating the views of a group with the individual, and vice versa
  • Make every effort to verify the identities and backgrounds of our sources and subjects, and avoid making assumptions
  • Avoid referring to a person’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, gender self-identification or physical ability unless it is pertinent to the story
  • Respect that each individual has a right to due process under law and are innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, avoid exerting media influence over court or other legal proceedings
  • We take special care when reporting on minors or those who are otherwise unable to give consent to be interviewed. While some minors, such as athletes, may be used to being interviewed, others might have little understanding of the implications of talking to the media. So when unsure, or when dealing with particularly sensitive subjects, we err on the side of seeking parental consent. Likewise, we take special care when using any material posted to social media by minors, as they may not understand the public nature of their postings
  • Disclose proper information necessary to parents to make proper decisions about our content for their children, such as the age ratings of games we review
  • Avoid manipulating people who are thrust into the spotlight because they are victims of tragedy. Avoid voyeuristic stories about them. When we contact them, we are sensitive to their situations, and report only information in which the public has a legitimate interest

Strive for Fair Dealings

Advertising, review copies, and more, can present potential bias to the games journalist.  We should strive not to allow this to bias our coverage.

Our writers and editors should:

  • Give fair time and attention to any games obtained for review, regardless of whether they were obtained freely or at cost
  • Seek to give voices to things that are not heard – not only is this in our best interests as a publication, it also helps amplify the diversity of the gaming industry as a whole by celebrating it
  • Avoid paying for sources or tips that offer information for money when possible
  • Respond swiftly to any and all comments that question the accuracy of reporting or criticism
  • Provide and maintain proper venues for discussing these topics – stifling the free discussion of criticisms should be avoided, except when that discussion is harmful to the readership as a whole
  • Be sure to clearly acknowledge mistakes when they occur and correct them properly and promptly
  • Publish all mistakes, corrections, revisions, or modifications to existing coverage in a clear and consistent matter
  • Give people, developers, publishers, or other organisations criticised in a piece the proper opportunity and space to respond to criticism
  • Deny preferential treatment to developers, or publishers, who provide advertising revenue or products free of charge for review
  • Distinguish news or reviews from any sponsored content and clearly disclose any and all sponsored content
  • Generally refrain from “un-publishing”, hiding, or deleting articles following publication, except in matters where the police is involved or there is a clear and present potential of harm to the public interest
  • Keep the identity of confidential sources private when we promise to do so
  • Avoid the use of social networking or social media to surreptitiously gain access to information that is otherwise not public
  • Likewise, avoid the use of social networking or social media to gain access to events, information, or products, that otherwise we would not have access to, as it is an inappropriate use of social powers in that context
  • Remember that our credibility as fair observers is damaged if we write opinion pieces about subjects whom we also cover as reporters
  • Avoid the use of pseudonyms in regards to our actual pieces and reviews, as this can make it unclear whom is providing the information and whether they can be trusted; likewise for when we are contacting sources to gather information for an article
  • In the event that we feel it is appropriate to use another publication as a source, we will fully disclose the source of that information
  • Avoid allowing the use of anonymity as a tool to take “cheap shots” at an organisation; carefully weigh the value and credibility of an anonymous source and the severity of claims made before reporting them
  • Make no promises about protecting a source we cannot keep, and remember that we have no legal protection a court cannot strip

Strive to be Independent

To be independent we strive to always keep a professional and reasonable distance from developers, publishers, or other third parties. The appearance of impropriety should be avoided just as much as actual impropriety.

Our writers and editors should:

  • Avoid soliciting gifts of favours for personal use. When a gift is received of a non-nominal value, it should be returned. If it cannot be returned, it should be donated to an appropriate charity (Operation Supply Drop, Warfighter Engaged, Extra Life, Take This!, Child’s Play, etc)
  • Avoid attending events, participating in mailing lists, or participating in other ventures that may compromise the ability of Highland Arrow to make independent decisions
  • Disclose industry connections we do have, so that the readers may properly inform themselves as to the biases and influences work may possess
  • Refuse payment for speaking with the developers, publishers, or other third parties we speak to
  • When we must make payments to third parties in regards to a story, such as paying local guides for information or direction, or using a third party service to gain sales information, we will clearly disclose this in articles where that information is being used
  • Avoid commenting on topics on which we have a non-nominal financial interest in. If we do comment on these topics, we disclose them clearly and consistently
  • Avoid accepting items from developers, excepting a product for review, as this can compromise our independent nature
  • Only accept gifts of a nominal value from readers, excepting a product for review. When a gift of non-nominal value is received, it should be returned, or donated to an appropriate charity
  • Avoid using one's status as a reporter or critic to influence other parties, as they may in turn influence us
  • Avoid showing completed review content to a developer, publisher, or source, except as is required for fact-checking, as this may encourage prior restraint or invite the possibility of editorial pressure from those sources
  • Clearly identify themselves as writers or critics to the people they contact on matters of coverage and to our readers, and do not misconstrue or provide out of context our authority or position
  • Keep our promises to sources, developers or publishers, but avoid and resist pressure to make these promises
  • Disclose cooperation with other outlets or freelance journalists clear and consistently, both in the general association sense and also directly and clearly upon articles where we may cooperate or collaborate
  • Above all else, seek to be accountable and answerable to our readership in regards to our reporting

A PDF version of the Code of Ethics is available here: codeofethics.pdf

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Highland Arrow
Your independent Canadian source for straight and to the point video games journalism.
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2013-09-15
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Canada