A report on news.com.au says that a former editor for Zoo Weekly, an Australian "lads mag", has been sacked after making public an email from Rockstar, publishers of the Grand Theft Auto series, demanding more "favourable coverage" from the writer. Updated.
Toby McCasker, who used to be deputy entertainment editor for the magazine, says that Rockstar haven't been too keen on his coverage of upcoming Western title Red Dead Redemption, and posted an email his magazine received from Rockstar Australia on his Facebook page (which has since been removed), in which it's alleged the publisher wrote:
This is the biggest game we've done since GTA IV, and is already receiving Game of the Year 2010 nominations from specialists all around the world.
Can you please ensure Toby's article reflects this - he needs to respect the huge achievement he's writing about here.
Shortly after posting that on his Facebook page, McCasker was dismissed from his position. What's unclear at the moment is why he was dismissed; merely posting internal communications on an external forum could well have been enough to warrant a sacking.
McCasker told News.com.au, "I did not sign up to become a journalist to write advertorials masquerading as editorial. This 'cash for comment' culture that is fast becoming the status quo within print media bothers me a lot."
Rockstar Australia has so far refused to comment on the allegations, while Zoo's editor, Paul Merrill, could not elaborate on the specific reasons behind McCasker's dismissal.
This of course isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened, nor will it be the last time, especially when it comes to the "mainstream" press and its coverage of video games. It's just... the latest time.
Kotaku AU Note: I was actually interviewed for this story. Click through to the full article to read my comments on the topic.
Lads' mag editor blows whistle on video games [news.com.au]
UPDATE: Zoo's editor Paul Merrill has contacted Kotaku and provided the following statement:
I would like to make it clear that at no time has Rockstar EVER sought a preferential review in return for advertising. In fact no games company has ever suggested this. And Zoo would never give a positive review to a game we didn't rate in return for ad dollars.
Toby McCasker was sacked for a number of reasons, one of which was his decision to post a private email on his Facebook page. This email was not referring to a game review. He should not be considered a credible source of information on this matter.