Before reading this, I just want to warn everyone that Kotaku posted a massive spoiler for Arkham City as a headline, and the blog's actions will be discussed in this post. Also, the storyline for Modern Warfare 3 will be mentioned as well.
Sensationalism is nothing new to tabloids. Shock-and-awe journalism is a viable business tactic, but it brings the publication into the unethical boundaries of the profession. Kotaku could be considered a gaming-centric tabloid based on some articles in the past; most notably, the massive Modern Warfare 3 leak detailing the entire story. The plot isn't considered a major selling point for the franchise, yet the move still calls into question where Kotaku's priorities lie.
This morning, the publication outdid itself once again. Kirk Hamilton, a writer for Kotaku, recently had one hour with the game and wrote about his findings. The article itself was actually really good, but that's not drumming up debate. The argument stems from the headline "The Joker Dies in the First Act of Arkham City (Or Does He?)". Based on that headline, obviously they are implying a major character in the franchise perishes early on.
In the comments section, according to Stephen Totilo, Rocksteady blatantly stated the Joker does die in the press memo. But for fans eagerly anticipating Arkham City, the first major plot point has now been ruined. Now, even if Rocksteady did acknowledge the Joker's death, was it still appropriate for Kotaku to have that as the headline? As far as I know, Kotaku is the only gaming publication to even include information of the Joker's death in their article.
Being a great journalist isn't just networking and having excellent writing skills - every article is also a meaningful decision. Questions about fact checking and the like are obvious, but ethical, moral and professional standards should be taken into account. It's a journalist's discretion of what to include and what to filter out - to judge the relevancy of information. Coverage of consumable media is inherently the same. Film critics may be displeased with an ending, but they are sensible enough to not giveaway what happens. In this case, if Kotaku wanted to ethically include the Joker's death with limited outrage, a spoiler alert would have been sufficient.
Not splashing a major plot point around is only considerate of the audience. When I first visited the site this morning, the headline was unavoidable. It was literally staring me in the face. Now I'm not that excited for Arkham City, but I can speak for legions of fans in saying they will never read Kotaku again. Based on the site's behaviour, I'm starting to get the same vibe.
Ars Technica agrees. And funny enough, I came across that article from Totilo who tweeted "Are Kotaku comments news? Why, yes they are." with the link. Is it just me or does that display a bit of arrogance?