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?
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.