On Patreon support

A Reddit thread was brought to my attention this morning that suggested that Polygon's Ben Kuchera published an article on this site in which he had a conflict of interest. The accusation stems from Ben's public contribution to game developer Zoe Quinn's Patreon campaign. Patreon, for those of you unfamiliar with the platform, is a way to financially support projects and creators whose work you appreciate and want to see continue. Like Kickstarter, these contributions aren't investments. There is no equity to be gained, there is no market to capitalize on.

Patreon contributions are publicly cataloged on the site. Indeed, Ben's contribution could have been made private and it stands to reason that it would have been were this a conflict of interest that we wanted to hide, but we determined that Patreon support didn't violate any journalistic principles more than, say, a preorder would. But regardless of what we thought, our public ethics policy was silent on Patreon, and critics interpreted the directive that Polygon staffers would not cover companies "in which they have a financial investment" to extend to this platform.

While I disagree that contributing to a game developer without holding an actual financial stake in their success is a violation of the spirit of that principle, I also think that disclosure is the best medicine in these circumstances. So starting immediately, I've asked everyone on staff to disclose on their staff pages any outstanding Patreon contributions and, additionally, to disclose the same on any coverage related to those contributions under that staff member's byline. We'll retroactively update any stories published in the duration of that support to reflect that, and I'll note those updates here.

It's natural that our staff would want to contribute to some of the creators whose work they appreciate and want to see continue, whether that is a Patreon campaign, a Kickstarter project or a AAA pre-order. But I think it's more important that we support the readers of this site first and foremost. It's imperative that we maintain appropriate barriers with the subjects we cover and, when those barriers are unclear or open to interpretation, as this case is, that we sufficiently disclose those details so readers can ultimately judge for themselves.