Hey everyone. I'm new here, and by here I mean both to the Los Angeles area and to the full-time gig of entertainment journalism, although I've been writing for MovieWeb, in several different capacities, for over five years now. Some of you online folks have seen me on set visits, junkets, roundtables or amidst the sheer lunacy that was last week's Comic-Con. I usually don't say much or get into heated debates about movies. I just kick the background. I'm usually one of the only people who smokes, and usually the one who does so most frequently, with the possible exception of a certain writer from MTV, whose name need not be said since I'm sure most of the online folks know who I'm talking about.
While I certainly relish this job, as I'm sure you all do, no job is perfect. Any job has that metaphorical PC Load Letter aspect of work that can drive you nuts on an off day. It seems lately, from the constant chatter that I hear at various events, that this one aspect of the online journalists' job is brimming from PC Load Letter status to "OK, but that's the last straw" status, and that is the ongoing "feud" between the online media and the trade publications, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. I've gotta tell you guys, I'm getting pretty f*&^ing sick of all of it... on both sides.
For those who don't know what I'm talking about, there have been numerous stories from numerous online entertainment websites expressing their vitriol for the trade publications. The reason for this is that the trades have been running stories, sometimes months after online sites break the story, and don't give a nudge of credit to the site that broke the story. Even our own B. Alan Orange commented on the ongoing saga in his most recent Boos and Whoop-Doos column. In recent months, there have been stories on sites like Collider, IESB.net, JoBlo and a rather comprehensive piece from Latino Review. This is clearly an issue that isn't going away anytime soon, so since it isn't going away, why don't we examine it a little further.
For one, I'd like to state for the record that I completely agree 100% with the above articles and their gripes towards the status quo of the evil "Trade Federation," as it were. I know that myself and everyone else on the MovieWeb staff and I'm sure all of the other online movie sites put in incredulous hours to give our readers the news that we know they'll want to read about. And, after putting in all those hours, asking the tough questions and the tough follow-ups when they dodge the initial tough question, to get a big fat juicy scoop, to say you're the first one with this exclusive... and then to have the "Trade Federation" report on it like you didn't exist? Yeah, I know why they're pissed, and I totally agree with them. The real question is why this happens again and again and again.
In the IESB piece above, there's a mention at the end that Variety's editor-in-chief Peter Bart denies surfing the online movie websites for news. IESB thinks they're "full of shit" in that denial, but I have a different theory on that: they're not "full of shit" and that's a big part of the problem. If you subscribe to this theory that Variety and The Hollywood Reporter absolutely never check the "blogosphere" or "interwebs" for news, then that just means they're ignoring an absolutely vital news resource, that of the online community. The piece that JoBlo broke wasn't reported in the trades until a YEAR after. I'm pretty sure the trades weren't just sitting on the story for a year to wait for it to blow over. I'm thinking that the "Trade Federation" really actually doesn't check any of our sites for news, and all that means is they're behind the curve, in many aspects. Sure, they know agents and power players and studio execs who feed them stories, but they're not out in the trenches, grinding it out for precious scoops that will lead to more hits to ensure our sites live to see another day. The trades have been around for decades. Most of our sites have been around for A decade, some even less perhaps. Yet, look at all we do, all we cover and look at everything we get that they don't. On that same note, it was troubling in the Latino Review piece that their story ran in the afternoon and the trades' stories ran later that night, still without an iota of credit to the site. Still, while this seems to be a shadier case, it is possible that the trades were talking to the same people that day as well. The big problem is, we'll probably never know.
This is kind of the rub of the whole arguement. While I wouldn't implore the trades to supply their sources or their process of compiling a story, or the online community to do so either, it's a bit of a sticky situation. Is it possible that a Variety or The Hollywood Reporter writer was talking to a different person inside the same production on the same day or same week, as in other cases? Sure. Is it possible that the trades saw the scoop on Latino Review and went to talk to someone else to confirm the same information? Sure. Do we REALLY know? No. Will we ever know? It seems unlikely. It seems the trades just simply want to brush us under the rug and go about their business, so, to that end, I suggest this: don't let them.
I suggest that every site that breaks a major scoop within the next six months makes a point of emailing that link to both the editors-in-chief of both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. This isn't for your sake, it's for theirs, a friendly little reminder that your site had it first, with the email serving as a receipt that you did in fact let them know about this story you broke. Let them know that we're f*&^ing here and this is what we got that you didn't. Will they ignore them? Probably. But if every site does this, with the amount of exclusives flooding into those trade inboxes, it might be a better way to show them we exist than to complain about it on the sites that they claim to never visit anyway, which leads me to another theory on this debacle.
Personally, there are a lot of sites I do like and some that I don't, as I'm sure each site has their favorites and non-favorites as well. While I get along quite nicely with most of the online media, there are some that I personally don't like as well. This isn't kindergarten. We're not finger-painting. While we reside in a land of make-believe, this is the real world. We're not all supposed to like each other, but still, this isn't kindergarten and I don't think finger-pointing or name-calling would be appropriate. The problem with "respect" that isn't given by the trade publications to the online media could possibly be a result of the non-traditional methods some sites are run. I myself have a four-year degree in journalism and I know that any reporter who interjects as much personal opinion into a NEWS story as those on a lot of sites do, would be fired on the spot at any traditional publication. That's why they have editorial departments. Perhaps the trades see these types of stories and that's why the respect level is so low, which I find really sad because there is some truly great stuff coming from tons of online sites. My dislike for certain sites or writers isn't totally due to this aspect of some sites, but when I'm trying to link to an exclusive from an online site and I have to delve through paragraphs of opinion with some facts scattered here and there, it seems to me that it only perpetuates the term "blogger" that is branded on us as a whole so often, a term which is the bane of any online journalist's existance.
Now, I'm not telling anyone how to run their site at all and I'm sure that style is part of what kept so many readers logged on to those sites. I'm not trying to "diss" any site or start any sort of beef with anybody, but coming from a traditional journalism background, I guess part of me can kind of see why the respect given by traditional media is so low. BUT, that's the only small part of me that feels that way.
We traipse through a world that few get to experience without actually being in a guild or union. We talk to movie stars regularly. We go to parties and get to be in the same room as Jason Statham, Clifton Collins Jr., Frank Miller and oh so many more, which was the case at the fabulous The Wrath of Con party (big, huge, fat, silly props to Robert Sanchez at IESB for that amazing shindig). We all do this, online and trades alike. We all live and work in the same world and yet we're all so vastly different from each other. I wonder how long it will take for the cronies of the "Trade Federation" to give us their just due. There's no doubt about it the studios do. The real question is, for us in the online media is: "Should we care?" It's not them on the cutting edge, it's US. How long do you think it's going to be before the trades don't even have a print publication? Look what happened to Premiere. So, to all my colleagues in the online media, keep up the amazing work, godspeed and be patient... and for all those in the "Trade Federation," I wouldn't keep that nose turned up at us for too long. You just might become a "blogger" too, sooner or later.
P.S. Questions, comments, hate-mail, credit card numbers and nude photos (female only) can be sent to me at [email protected]
Peace in. Gallagher out!