Psychic Journalism

Thanks to Ombudsman reader Justin McElroy for pointing me to a Computer and Video Games article about some alleged Nintendo Revolution videos uncovered by a French gaming Web site. It’s a pretty standard, substance-free rumor-mongering article, with an added psychic twist:

“We can’t confirm or deny whether they’re true either way, and of course if we asked them, Nintendo would issue its standard ‘we don’t comment on rumour and speculation’.”

Now, C&VG is most likely right. At least nine times out of ten, big companies like Nintendo do just issue a standard no comment when asked about rumors like these. But there are at least a few times when they will break that shell of silence, and that is when the game journalism community should be asking, and listening, the hardest.

It’s very unlikely that Nintendo would confirm the footage was real. Even if it was real, they would likely issue a “no comment” until they could officially unveil the footage themselves, albeit with much less fanfare than if the footage hadn’t leaked out. This doesn’t mean that a “no comment” is as good as a “yes,” but it does leave the possibility open.

What’s slightly more likely, and more interesting, is that Nintendo would deny that the footage was real. Nintendo has done this in the past, for example, denying rumors of a potential sale to Microsoft or reports of technical problems causing a delay in the GameCube’s launch. Imagine if the reporters in these stories had failed to ask, simply assuming that Nintendo would not comment on the rumors. Readers would be left without some truly vital information.

Even better, when a company does actively deny something, it’s a great chance to catch them in a lie later on. Take, for example, this story, in which Nintendo denied it would lower the price of the GameCube just three days before doing just that. Or this story where Nintendo denied Sega would be making games for the Game Boy Advance roughly a year before the release of Sonic Advance. These little nuggets of self-contradiction are gold for any journalist, and poison for any PR department (this is why companies give so many “no comments” in the first place).

Of course, if I contacted C&VG about this, they’d probably just tell me that they didn’t have time to contact Nintendo before posting this little airy nothing of a story, and they just made up an excuse to avoid looking lazy. Hey, if they can make up likely answers, then so can I.

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