There was a lot of talk at C2E2 about press lists, who’s on, who’s off, how you get on and what’s expected. There’s no question that Marvel and DC, like the studios that own them, want to have more control over a positive message about their products. Unquestionably, the very professional PR people who work at Marvel and DC know that this isn’t always possible, but they still have to do their jobs.
Mind you, it's not all beer and sandwiches at Marvel either. I've been the cause several ructions in the past few weeks, though that's mostly been my fault. But it's not just me, another respected comics reporter has told me the site he works for has told him that Marvel won't work with him on articles, while another has been criticized by Marvel reps for writing too much like me. But you know what? Maybe some sites have gotten too close to publishers, who do see them as PR extensions. Sometimes you have to bite the hand that feeds you – or be dismissed as a poodle? I've never liked being described as a journalist, and have usually resisted it. But everyone finds a different way to walk the line.
Satire/news site The Outhouse has a column today on how one of their writers was told point blank that the site would not get any interviews because of their constant satirical zinging. But, writes E-i-C Christian Hoffer
In fact, it was DC’s constant pushing us aside that helped push the Outhouse to the snarky, satirical site you see today. After years of being denied interviews and review copies while constantly kissing ass, and posting the same bland press releases in the hopes of being seen as “good soldiers”, we decided that we didn’t want to play ball anymore and decided to be a voice for change instead. And I haven’t regretted that decision one bit.
It’s been almost a year since we first started the “News Initiative” that spawned all the snark and satire you see on the front page. While we’ve had a few industry people upset with us from time to time, most of the industry professionals we speak to range from ambivalent to pretty positive about the site’s new direction. At the very least, most people seem to at least be appreciative that we’re taking an honest, unfiltered fan approach towards covering the news. At least ‘til yesterday.
“But, we’re not going to discontinue our satirical criticism of DC in order to talk to creators for five minutes.” he continues, and for his site that makes a lot of sense. When news coverage results in the same 20 sites having almost identical meatless promotional interviews with the same “I can’t talk about that yet,” blank spots…well, no one is really winning.
And what about The Beat? We’re on most press lists, and have good working relationships with almost every PR person out there (I think? hope??) but try to be as honest as possible, which means we’re not a preferred outlet most of the time either. We don’t run those five-minute interviews either, but Bleeding Cool has proven you don’t need approved sources to be a well read site–you just need a lot of sources and people willing to leak information.
Like we said no one is really winning, in this war of access and credibility. The honest authentic voices on both sides are still going to rise above the sludge, but finding them will get harder and harder in an ocean of haystacks. An ocean of sludgey haystacks…okay, no more metaphors until I’ve had more coffee.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.