A Friendly Response To Variety’s (Anti-)Blogger Article

Published 5 years ago by , Updated March 9th, 2013 at 1:38 pm,

screenrant logo 80h A Friendly Response To Varietys (Anti )Blogger Article

Mike Fleming, one of the seasoned veteran entertainment reporters over at Variety posted an op-ed piece yesterday where he talked about the good, the bad and the ugly in the blogging industry, as seen by an old  pro.

While the piece tried to walk the middle of the road, it inevitably skewed toward the condescending end of the spectrum, addressing those of us in the blogosphere in the tone of a teacher addressing the impetuous students in his freshman journalism class.

Funny part is, I don’t even disagree with much of what Fleming said. However, Mr. Fleming needs to recognize that there are sites like Screen Rant out here already working hard to be everything he wishes bloggers could be (and so much more than that).

Here’s a quick rundown of the complaints Fleming offers about bloggers in his article:

“In the entertainment industry, the proliferation of bloggers puts the news timetable into fast-forward.”

“With a race to be first, bloggers don’t wait for confirmation — which has hugely increased the spread of mistaken (and sometimes disruptive) info.”

“To their continued frustration, news sources are no longer in control of how and when they make an announcement.”

“Too often, accuracy takes a back seat to being first. I regularly see half-baked stories posted, and quickly spread all over the world by sites that don’t verify them. I’m troubled by a growing lack of objectivity, and an erosion of civility between competing journalists and the subjects we write about.”

“Sometimes the fast “news” process of the Internet is mystifying. I watch sites showcase stories of directors simply taking meetings on projects with no deal in sight. Is that news?”

“…bloggers are often forced to retract “news stories” that they’ve printed.”

“Sometimes I wish there were more points of view from showbiz bloggers. Too many of them have taken the same tone as they blur a line between objective reporting and opinion…Some bloggers seem to prize pummeling each other more than gathering news.”

“I just wish many bloggers could be a bit more gracious — and I don’t think it would make them boring. Even six months ago, it was fun to laugh at the meanness and negativity on the web. But as times get tougher, it’s not fun any more.”

All fair points, and all very true in the cases of certain sites-which-won’t-be-named. But NOT the case here at Screen Rant. For those of you who don’t know, let me briefly familiarize you with our sacred mission statement, first laid down by our Owner/Editor-in-Chief, Vic Holtreman:

  • Quality of writing counts. It’s not enough to just “present the facts,” you have to be able to present them well.
  • Not every rumor need be reported at first utterance. Sometimes it pays to be the site that waited.
  • Not everything that COULD be reported on, SHOULD be. A line does in fact exist between public and private, news-worthy and news-worthless.
  • Opinion counts. Sometimes a well-thought op-ed on a popular subject is more compelling than a up-to-the-minute exclusive. Emphasis on the “well-thought” part.
  • Personality matters. Breaking news draws the curious reader. Distinctive voices from engaging writers keeps them coming back.
  • “Keep it friendly” comment sections. A blog site’s comment section should be a forum where movie enthusiasts gather to swap ideas and opinions about what’s going with a film or in the industry. Not a platform for verbal abuse and childish behavior.
  • A little bit of snark is OK (after all it’s what makes us bloggers!); too much snark is just too much.

Pretty much the journalistic values Mr. Fleming said bloggers needed to adopt, right?

about vic A Friendly Response To Varietys (Anti )Blogger Article
Screen Rant‘s head guru, Vic Holtreman

And you know what? It’s a system that works. I know that when I came over to Screen Rant from another blog site nearly a year ago, (although I am a damn good writer) I was just as snarky and careless as many of the bloggers out there Fleming is lambasting. Vic had zen-like patience reigning me into his wise view of what a site should and shouldn’t be.

Moreover, the entire Screen Rant team has always held high standards about the quality of writing that goes up on the site. Our team of editors spend oodles of time editing and fact-checking posts before they go live. We might not get the info out first, but it will be polished and it will be correct. Finally, we’ve often stayed skeptical while other sites are throwing around wild rumors, until we have 100% confirmation of what is what.

And, like I said, our system has paid off. No one here at Screen Rant could’ve imagined the growth we’ve seen in the last year–and like pretty girls who need little makeup, we’re only getting better with time.

Mr. Fleming, some of us in the blogosphere are well ahead of your curve, sir. In your next op-ed, we would appreciate greatly if you could take the time to discover more of the real quality writing out here in the ‘sphere (that’s the 2009 slang for the “blogosphere,” BTW), and don’t focus so much on the bad.

Finally, not to end on a snarky note, but one thing Fleming’s article DOESN’T bring up (ironically enough) is the growing trend of trades dipping their spoons into the blogosphere for a taste of an “exclusive.” I won’t mention any names or cite any specific examples–this is strictly a wink to my fellow bloggers–but even as of late, a certain famous trade in particular has re-reported accurate news first broken on a blog site, without showing ANY reference or link back to the originating site. Where is the journalistic camaraderie in that?

In the interest of fairness, you can follow the link and read Mike Fleming’s blogger op-ed in full. When you’re done, let us know what you think about his views of the ‘sphere and how Screen Rant matches up to his complaints.

Shout-out to all our friends at other sites who run their sites like professionals. Keep up the good work. We are the new reporters.

Source: Variety

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26 Comments

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  1. Awesome retort. Clear, directed and heartfelt to boot!

    I wonder how many blog-like sites even have mandates though. That could be the key to it all.

  2. Tell it like it is! :-D

  3. Well said Vic.

  4. Psshhhh, enough with this patting yourself on the back, you guys suck and I don’t know why anyone would come here more than once…

    Oh wait, I come here all the time… doh!! :-D

    Lol, just kidding guys, love the site.

    What he says is totally true though of a lot of other sites. How many of these “rumors” have you guys had to clarify and dispel due to other blog sites careless reporting? Seriously, I can see why he felt compelled to write about it. Obviously even he knows that there are exceptions to the rule, like with Screenrant, but I guess he was stating a general thing, I’m sure if he is aware of your site he knows you guys are not like that at all.

  5. @Gary

    I didn’t write this, Kofi did. :-)

    Vic

  6. Oops!
    sorry about thatKofi.
    Well said nonetheless .
    Nikki Finke talked about variety s article on her site.
    She seems to think a lot of it was aimed at her.
    Is she mentioned in the full article?

  7. Kofi, I also saw that Variety report. It covers some interesting issues. My own blog is attached to a daily newspaper that is part of a huge group publishing a national newspaper and loads of smaller regional titles, so I feel a responsibility to be far more professional. And, also, I am a trained journalist, so it has been drummed into me to apply certain standards. I do sometimes have some fun (treating some of the sillier rumours with irony or disdain). I do sometimes get snarky (recently i’ve been quite nasty about Paris Hilton), and I am not perfect by any means.

    But a lot of sites out there are not like that. They are driven by ego and by the American dream (the ethic of self-made success), and I doubt a lot of the people on these sites have any formal training in journalism, or law.
    Journalism is a profession. Putting a Bandaid over a cut does not make a person a doctor, and banging out a few words and copy-pasting news does not make a person a journalist.

    The need to be ‘first’ does drive some sites – you can also see that ego-driven behaviour in the comments section on the front page of SHH, where commenters often just say ‘first!’ and nothing else at all!

    I’ve also seen sites plagiarising my reports almost word for word, with no crediting or back-linking. I’ve had to threaten one site several times over this.

    I also saw an amazing explosion of web gossip over Green Lantern’s casting. I was the first (!!!) site to link the filming date with casting information, and I posted the names mentioned to me, as well as names thrown around generally (which included Chris Pine). IESB then ran a report mentioning Pine – and copied some of the wording from my blog word for word. Quie amusing to see. Then the other sites leapt on it. None of them mentioned my site, which was the wellspring of all the casting gossip.

    There are some dreadful sites out there – and not just in the USA. The UK tabloid press seem to make things up (especially The Sun, although it does also have its accurate sources whom it pays for information) and there is the UK celebrity trivia site Digitalspy which hoovers up news from other sites and never has links to the original source. I’ve not been impressed with the standards of writing there at all – I recently contacted one of the ‘reporters’ when they claimed Sherlock Holmes was going to be gay in the upcoming movie, because another unscrupulous site had misreported ‘bromance’ quotes by Robert Downey Jr.

    Blogging has grown hugely just in the year that my newspaper’s blog site The Geek Files has been operational, and there is going to be the good and the bad.

    The only thing to do is use your instincts. I’ve been a working journalis since 1986, and had three years of education/training in that profession, and as we say in newspapers, ‘if in doubt, leave it out!’

    Join my webchat on Wednesday to say hello and talk more!

    David

  8. …and just to add that I think Nikki Finke isn’t that bad actually. She has her connections, she doesn’t seem to be making things up, she just works that Rolodex like a thing possessed!

    I think Variety never credits the original scoop sites because it does its own checking before running a story – whether it should mention the original scoop site is debatable.

    Apologies for any typos in my posts here – it’s late here in the UK and I’ve now been up for 18 hours so it’s time for some sleep!

  9. There are a lot of crappy blogs spouting any gibberish to get noticed. This is certainly not one, which is why I come back.

    I did think while reading his opinions – Screenrant doesn’t put up any old news or the latest rumour. That’s one of the main features.

    Also remember the issue about main media using blogs and the internet without giving credit. It was a good article on here. Totally agree.

  10. Oh the tabloids here are rotten, and few newspapers take their online side seriously. Couple do now.
    The Sun is a joke and without any knowledge on most things.

  11. The one thing I don’t get with some sites (and really good ones) is the allowed use of profanity in the comment sections. Intellegent conversation is much better than the F-bomb every other sentence. Just MY opinion.

    chuck

  12. I read a lot of film blogs… and I mean a hell of a lot. And while I enjoy them all for whatever reason (well… I enjoy most of them for whatever reason, the rest just stick around because I like to stay in the know on such things and they’ll occasionally get there faster, even if half aren’t true), I always find myself coming back to Screenrant, to both read what you’ve written and comment.

    I comment on other sites, but prefer to do so here. I also prefer to read what you have to say about a topic (and I will admit, 50% of the time I’ll not agree with everything you say, and I feel that makes it more fun) as more often than not I’ll end up reading some bit of news here that had already been reported a few hours before on another site and I’ll still read because you have your own view on it and that’s what I come for.

    And that’s the point. You, the website, has a personality, one that isn’t mimicked elsewhere. There are few that do the same, by and large, the bloggers that Fleming was talking about are ones that really just go around sounding exactly like everyone else.

    It is definitely good to see sites such as this and a few others work in a way that would be preferable to Fleming (and preferable to the public at large), but the sad truth is, there’s a hell of a lot of people out there who think that the ability to grab a domain name and start a blog means they should start reporting news like a journalist, without the slightest clue of how to do so, and unfortunately, this gives us a huge number of bloggers like the ones Fleming is complaining about and a very small number of bloggers that actually do a good job.

  13. @David B

    I had no idea that GL/Pine story originated on your site or I would have certainly given you credit!

    @Gary

    There were actually 2 or 3 blogger articles published over at Variety within the span of a couple of days and one of them did mention Nikki (who is indeed connected and usually accurate).

    To everyone, thanks for your kind words about the site – looks like all that effort is indeed appreciated and that means a lot.

    Thanks,

    Vic

  14. This is the ONLY site I get my movie news from! Keep up the good work Vic and crew!

  15. This is a debate I’ve had with my colleagues for the past couple of years. As someone professionally trained in English, journalism and communications, with many years writing across a variety of spectrums, I completely empathize with the position from which Mike Flemming is coming. And he makes a lot of good points.

    His words also reek of a stale, miasmatic breath, for in a very real sense they are the last gasp of journalism’s pleistocene era. The Internet and blogs and Twitter — and whatever else is yet to come — are evolving the medium at a pace, and in ways, that benefit the fleet of foot, but that I also agree must find a way to incorporate integrity.

    Flemming is venting in frustration; swimming against a changing tide he knows he cannot change. But instead of whining about the merits of a bygone era, he should be more artfully suggesting that the old and new find a way to marry the best of both.

    Like ScreenRant (and Vic and the crew here is to be heartily congratulated for maintaining high standards), CinemaSpy.com has also strived to incorporate as much of the integrity of traditional journalism as possible, but bring it forward into the 21st century by combining it with the immediacy and intimacy of online reporting.

    Keep up the good work, guys! We’ll try to do the same. Especially since we’re both under the MMC umbrella now.

  16. Well Said. This site is by far the best site out there. I visit a few other sites and yes a lot of them tend to get news long before you guys do, but well over half that news get retracted or a big fat Never Mind stamp on them. Screen rant pretty much always waits until it’s confirmed or at least says that it is unconfirmed and probably not true.

    I will say this I do consider it news if a director takes a meeting because it helps to give a heads up at the possibility’s .

  17. There’s also a sense of entitlement going on here. I’m sure there’s a part of Mike Flemming — and other journos of the “old guard” — that think to themselves, “We worked long and hard to get where we are, and clawed our way up to our positions [in traditional media]. Who the hell are these upstart bloggers to be stealing our thunder, our status…and most importantly now, our revenue.”

    Because advertising is migrating to the web at such a rapid pace that it is keeping the purveyors of traditional print media up at night with cold sweats.

    Of course, what they fail to understand is that while anyone can start a website, but only those with the professionalism, skills, vision and fortitude are going to make a success of it. May not take as long as it did for those who had to claw their way up the traditional ladder, but it still takes time, talent and effort.

    What’s changed is that those with real talent, but traditionally little opportunity, don’t have to play the games of the “old boys club” anymore. The web has empowered them to take control of their own destiny and reach the public directly with their own vision.

  18. @ Robert,

    Well said man.

  19. @ Kofi,

    Thanks. Keep up the good work over here and forget what Flemming is saying. The traditional paradigms of media are going through a quantum shift and he’s disturbed because it threatens his livelihood.

    Hopefully some of us will get a chance to kibitz more about this and other stuff at Comic-Con this year. :)

  20. I have to say I certainly appreciate being able to read something and trust it. There have been a number of sites I’ve frequented until realizing that there wasn’t much point if every other article was just getting corrected later. I’d rather read something right once and a little later than get it early and tell my friends about something I read and then get to go back and retract. It gets old.

    Breaking News >> Breaking Falsehoods

  21. Kofi,

    A little too professional, if you ask me, but thanks for the heads up. I am licking my lips, and can’t wait to write my less than PC retort.

    I’ll mention yours if people want to read a less aggressive version. :)

  22. @ Behind the Hype

    Don’t beat them up too bad. Unless you wanna. ;-)

  23. This is one of only 2 sites I go to because all the others Ive really ever checked out are just not up to my standards of what is breaking news, what should and should not be spoiled and what makes blogs fun to read.

  24. Bottom line is the print media is ticked that they no longer have a monopoly and that their once cointroled and often slanted delivery of information is being exposed and challenged by an internet savvy generation of readers.

    Heres a classic one :
    “…bloggers are often forced to retract “news stories” that they’ve printed.” Really? Well at least this is done quickly and in a way so that readers can see it unlike in print media. In Print media they may print retractioins when they are forced to (they have no true feedback system that other readers can follow so who knows what they burry and what the confess to doing wrong) but when they do print them its often on a back page or some place where few see it and its often so lng after the original item they are reetracting that the retraction has lost its intended effect.

    For example if you are a flamming liberal/staunch conservative journalist for a magazine and you want to tarnish the image of some conservative/liberal politician then you can write some scathing news, perhaps write it in a way so that to the reader it sounds like legit news but also done in a way that allows you to say later it was gossip and so you print teh story. You get busted the person shows the news is bogus and so you print a retraction several months later, maybe even longer depending on what it is. if you do this right aorund an election then you are able to put out bogus/slanted information on a condiate you don;t like and do it so that by the time the retraction comes it it doesn’t matter because the eelction is over.

    Now if a blog tries to do this then because of how qick thisng happen in the blogsphere and because fo the readers ability to communicate, if a blogger tries this they have to put out a retraction rather quickly.

    Most of Flemmings wines are just that, whinning. I imagine back during the creation of the printing press that the writers oif that day, the elite few who could write as well as afford the materials to write were probably complainging about how the industry would come to ruins now that anyone with the ability to get a printing press would be able to print & distribute.

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