[The following post could, and likely should, be much longer and better researched, so please take it with a grain of salt and realize it’s largely a reaction to one incident, not an all-out attack on the world of journalism.]
I had another post all planned out for today, but as many of you reading this know, yesterday was a big day for comic news with DC Comics announcing they’ll be relaunching all of their DC Universe titles with new #1s in September. Big news for sure.
The story was initially given to USA Today, and various media outlets ran with it after that. Comic Book Resources (who, in the interest of full-disclosure, I work for part-time) ran an initial story that credited USA Today, and then a follow-up with added details their investigative team had uncovered ahead of more future DC announcements. Last night I was scrolling through twitter and checking reactions from friends in the industry and saw that The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog had posted their story fairly late in the day.
The initial post, which has since been updated, was poorly and improperly sourced. They mentioned Bleeding Cool’s work on the topic, but did not link to it, and then credited them for work that CBR had done. Looking at the article now, they’ve fixed both errors, but for my money it’s too little too late.
I’d love to write a scathing critique of journalism and the ethics involved, but I don’t have the time or the space to do it. But I will bring up a few key points. Journalism is meant to deliver the truth to the mass, to educate and inform the public. That’s job #1, but there are certainly responsibilities every journalist has. One of those is to get their facts straight. That means checking (and double and triple checking) facts so you’re not reporting falsehoods and spreading misinformation. There is a responsibility to the truth, the story and the reading public to get things right.
While THR’s blog didn’t get all that much wrong, they certainly could have done a better job. And there is certainly a responsibility to properly credit sources. THR didn’t have a man on the ground looking into this story; they saw the news elsewhere and crafted a story so that their readers could also have that information. This happens all the time either because a news outlet is given a story, or an investigative piece discovers something and has the scoop. But when you’re coasting off of someone else’s work, you must, with zero exceptions, give credit where credit is due.
Most people who read THR’s story last night aren’t going to go back and see that Bleeding Cool and CBR have been credited with links today. It’s too late. And that’s where my attack on the Internet aspect of journalism comes into play. We want everything instantly. We want it now, all the time, regardless of what or why. We don’t wait. And unfortunately, this leads to errors and mistakes.
Internet journalism is great. Anyone can now deliver news to an audience of billions. But the problem is a lack of training or understanding of the responsibilities inherent in being a journalist. Don’t get me started on grammatical or stylistic problems…
Most of the journalism I read today is sports and comics, so my current lens is very small. I do read a lot of film/TV journalism, and the occasional hard news or lifestyle pieces. Some outlets have stellar reputations and stellar reporting across the board. But as more and more voices rise, the signal-to-noise ratio gets harder and harder to combat. It no longer matters who said it best or who did it the right way. It’s about who said it first and who said it loudest, even if there are mistakes and factual inaccuracies.
I’d like to see journalism get back to basics. Follow a code and live by it. Don’t be the also ran or the noisy guy because you want to be heard. I’m talking especially to you, comics journalists (and reviewers, who in the vast majority of cases don’t even understand what a review needs to encompass). I’m not blaming the Internet, it’s just a tool, but it’s less the untrained and unscrupulous rise to – if not the same – similar levels as the true professionals. That’s a scary thought.