The world of internet journalism is populated with morons and dipshits. There are some really great people out there doing really fantastic, smart work, but for every one of these people – for every late, lamented Mr Beaks or Stu at thereeler.com or Ed Douglas at Coming Soon or the whole gang at Cinematical – there’s a horde of douchebags whose main qualification is the ability to pay a monthly web hosting bill.
Normally I just read this stuff and feel momentarily annoyed and then move on my merry way, but today I saw something that set my blood boiling, and I feel like I need to make note of it. Here’s some background: Yesterday Freeze Dried Movies broke a story about a certain actor getting a lead role in James Cameron’s new film, Avatar. Many sites picked it up, and were then contacted by the actor’s rep, asking to take the story down. Sites including CHUD. I took the piece down because the actor hadn’t gotten the role yet, and the massive early reporting could hurt his chances; while there are some actors whose careers I would be all too happy to sabotage, this guy isn’t one of them.
But Josh Tyler at Cinemablend has refused to pull the story. I clicked over to his site to read why and found his reasoning bizarre and defective: “We’re not removing it, because it’s a legitimate story and there’s no good reason for us to do so. Whatever happened to journalistic integrity? In fact, it’s now even more legitimate since his people’s concern only confirms that [the actor] is almost certainly in consideration.”
No good reason? Well, Josh, one good reason would be general consideration. But what gets on my nerves is the idea that there’s some sort of journalistic integrity at stake here. First of all, I hate using the term “journalism” or “journalist” when talking about repurposing Variety articles or attending junkets. Fuck, there are days when I feel like saying “writer” is pushing it with some of these sites. The fact of the matter is that we’re no more journalists than the people who write about whether Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston are getting married in the pages of US Weekly. We’re critics and pundits, and there’s no shame in that, but let’s call a spade a spade in this case.
But Josh, you do have something that almost approaches a point. We’re critics and pundits, but we do have ethical concerns to tend to. Ethical concerns like not ripping off other websites, like your Film Habit did with Nick’s Piss and Vinegar column here on CHUD, from back when you used to post on our boards as The Film Hobbit. Ethical concerns like respecting review embargoes, as opposed to how you break embargo on an almost weekly basis so you can get your reviews up on Rotten Tomatoes before other, better written and reasoned reviews go up. But I guess you somehow have a major ethical need to keep up that story you didn’t even break yourself.
Josh, even if we’re pretending to be the Woodward and Bernstein of the internet, what’s the journalistic value of this piece of casting news? Does the public have an inalienable right to know the identity of an actor who is up for this role? Does the public interest in this case outweigh the potential damage to this actor’s chances? The kind of “journalists” who don’t take that into account, by the way, are the ones who write for the gossip pages. They’re the people who traffic in information without context and devoid of actual public interest.
What’s the point of your site, Josh? Is it to air ruthless exposes of the film industry? Or is because you really love movies and want to have a place to talk about them, and to share your passion for movies with other people? In your own self-righteous disclaimer you say that you would like to see this actor get the role. Or maybe you don’t give a shit about movies, and you just want the hits. Nothing says integrity like shamelessly pandering for more ad impressions.