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Learn about journalistic scandals and improprieties, and form your own opinion on which journalists and outlets deserve your trust.

DeepFreeze currently covers videogame journalism — mainstream media coming soon.

10 Sep 2017

Jonathan Holmes

12

Sensationalism
Wrote about the copyright claim takedown of River City Ransom: Underground. The article mostly consisted of the statements of said game’s composer Alex Mauer — who filed the claim over an alleged lack of payment — and concluded with heavy criticism against the “sadistic feeding frenzy” against Mauer, led by “ambulance chasing, opportunistic video game pundits demonizing her in long winded, fruitless Youtube rants”. As likely pointed out in the heavily censored and soon-disabled comment section, the article omits a lot of key information in a very long controversy— Mauer not only filed multiple unfounded copyright claims towards games they scored, sent spurious takedown requests (an act of perjury) to several dozen of Youtube and Twitch videos featuring these games and sent multiple documented death threats, but also changed their story multiple times and explicitly stated their actions were malicious. Mauer’s claims were called fraudolent by both Youtube and Steam, and during this controversy Mauer was served with a restraining order and even involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation. Before the article, the controversy had already been covered by extremely large Youtube channels, and apparently Holmes had been explicitly informed of the death threats issued by Mauer by one of the recipients. Following the backlash, Destructoid moved the article to its blog section, with Holmes adding a through update apologizing for the article, with apologies also being issued on his personal Twitter.

Amended Sensationalism

15 Jul 2017

Censorship
After a quitting writer managed to publicly accuse Brash Games on the site itself, numerous testimonies of former staff and documented proof (also an investigation by OpenCritic) showed that Brash Games strips writing credit from its contributors when they leave the site — essentially removing the unpaid writers’ only compensation. Following universal criticism, Brash Games blamed a technical issue, removed its staff page, apprently removed even more bylines, and eventually started issuing apparently unfonded accusations to former contributors. Ryan is, as of late 2017, attempting to sell Brash Games and start a new site.

Serious Censorship

07 Sep 2017

Corruption
Despite claiming that the Brash Games doesn’t run advertisements, it seems rather evident that the site offers undisclosed sponsored content linkning to casino websites — even leaving the signature of the affiliate agent at one point. Affiliate links appear even on the site’s front page, and are prevailingly found in articles written by one David James — that appears to be an alias for site owner Paul Ryan.

Serious Corruption

08 Sep 2017

Dishonesty
When controversy put Brash Games in the spotlight in April 2017, claimed that Brash Games doesn’t run advertisements while the site was clearly running a massive amount of undisclosed sponsored content. Brash also unpublished articles that were linked as proof of their malfeasance. In addition, the accusations in their statement responding to the controversy seem factually inaccurate.

Apparent Dishonesty

27 Apr 2017

Dishonesty
Appears to routinely change review scores from contributors’ submissions, to match average scores. Has admitted to it, stating it happened “a handful of times”, in “a tiny proportion” of the total reviews.

Apparent Dishonesty

Not dated

Corruption
Some articles on the site don’t disclose their affiliate links. This behavior seems inconsistent across the site, with some articles disclosing the affiliate links, some missing them completely (tag “vergeprimeday2017”, obfuscated through url shorteners), and some updating after publication — suggesting this might not be enforced by the site, but depend on the writer.

Apparent Corruption

Not dated

Corruption
Originally did not disclose its Amazon affiliate links. Disclosures were added once this was called out, although they are not noted as updates.

Amended Corruption

Not dated

Corruption
Does not disclose Amazon affiliate links appearing on the game hub pages.

Apparent Corruption

Not dated

26 Mar 2017

Cronyism
Wrote about fellow journalists Dan Golding and Brendan Keogh, without disclosing an apparently rather friendly personal relationship with both of them, involving multiple meetings. Lien appears to have deleted her Twitter interactions with Golding and Keogh.

Apparent Cronyism

21 Aug 2013

Cronyism
Wrote about Mattie Brice, without disclosing an apparently reasonably close personal relationship, involving mention of at least three meetings preceeding the article’s publication. Lien appears to have deleted her Twitter interactions with Brice.

Apparent Cronyism

20 Aug 2013

Cronyism
Wrote several articles about the game Elysian Shadows, originally disclosing a friendly relationship with the game’s developers only in one of them. Disclosure was promptly added to all of the articles missing it as soon as Orselli was notified.

Resolved Cronyism

20 Jan 2016

Corruption
Wrote about Aevee Bee, without disclosing that he was supporting her on Patreon—a support that might be ongoing since 2014, and is against the policies of Kotaku, where the article appeared. Disclosure was added sometime after the article’s publication.

Apparent Corruption

09 Mar 2017

Daniel Starkey

1

Trivia
Apparent GG Autoblocker user.

Trivia

Not dated

Dan Golding

1

Trivia
Apparent GG Autoblocker user.

Trivia

Not dated

Merritt Kopas

1

Trivia
Apparent GG Autoblocker user.

Trivia

Not dated

Lana Polansky

1

Trivia
Apparent GG Autoblocker user.

Trivia

Not dated

28 Feb 2017

Cronyism
Has written about Harmonix while the company was employing his former editor at Destructoid, Nick Chester, without disclosing this relationship. Responded privately to DeepFreeze’s staff, saying that while he considers these articles lapses in judgement, he is no longer working at the involved outlets and in no position to add disclosures—disclosures which, either way, he doesn’t feel would benefit readers so long after publication. Destructoid added a disclosure when informed.

Apparent Cronyism

01 Sep 2014

Cronyism
Wrote an article about music label Scarlet Moon Records where he mentions Dale North, former Editor-In-Chief of Destructoid, without disclosing they had worked together at Destructoid for overlapping periods of time. While this article properly mentions that Scarlet Moon was founded by a former colleague of his, Ponce neglected to disclose it in a previous article about the label. Responded privately to DeepFreeze’s staff, saying that while he considers these articles lapses in judgement, he is no longer working at the involved outlets and in no position to add disclosures—disclosures which, either way, he doesn’t feel would benefit readers so long after publication.

Possible Cronyism

01 Jul 2014

Holly Green

1

Trivia
On the receiving end of coverage involving apparent conflicts of interest. Once from a then-employee, Ryan Parreno, and at least twice from admitted friend Mike Futter.

Trivia

Not dated

Holly Green

1

Trivia
After Green had a dispute with the owner of Destructoid Yanier “Niero” Gonzalez, all of her work at Destructoid was unilaterally earsed from the site by Gonzalez.

Trivia

Not dated

Corruption
Wrote about Jim Sterling without disclosing either their professional ties—she and Sterling were employed by Destructoid for overlapping periods of time—as well as an apparently reasonably close personal relationship. Sterling had also backed Holly Green’s Kickstarter project, and informed her of having backed it before the article.

Apparent Corruption

13 Mar 2016

Ryan Parreno

1

Cronyism
Wrote about Holly Green for Gaming Enthusiast, without disclosing that Green, at the time, was his Managing Editor at Gameranx—where he would continue to work for over a year, until April 2016, with Green remaining his superior at least until March 2016. Gaming Enthusiast promptly added a disclosure when informed.

Amended Cronyism

11 Jan 2015

29 Jan 2017

Merritt Kopas

1

Trivia
Has been on the receiving end of apparent conflicts of interest multiple times. Journalists who covered Kopas while seemingly being on friendly terms include Leigh Alexander, at least three times and Patricia Hernandez, also at least three times (and later a fourth which included a disclosure), whereas Austin Walker has covered Kopas while financially supporting her on Patreon.

Trivia

Not dated

Cronyism
Co-authored an article about Christine Love, without disclosing a rather evident personal relationship with Love. Some comments Kopas published shortly after this was publicized seem to be a response—claiming the apparent conflict of interesting is a form of “networking” and people bringing it up are “conspiracy theorists”.

Apparent Cronyism

24 Jan 2017

Nathan Grayson

17

Cronyism
Wrote two times about Christine Love for Kotaku, partially disclosing a rather apparent personal relationship only in the first. Grayson also wrote a third previous article mentioning Love, but it was published before any public interactions between the two.

Possible Cronyism

05 Jan 2017

Cronyism
Wrote an article promoting a visual novel by Christine Love, without disclosing an apparently fairly developed friendly relationship—including frequent social media interactions, at least a meetup, and possibly more soon after the article.

Apparent Cronyism

08 Jan 2013

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