Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Won't Go Home Again

David Brothers ripped Newsarama pretty badly a month or so ago. While I don't agree with all of his points on the matter that led to the 'Rama editorial, I do tend to agree with a lot of what he's said about problems there and with comics journalism in general.

Allow me to put a finer point on it.

When the BLACKEST NIGHT finale came out, Newsarama wanted to do a feature article where as many Best Shots members as possible would contribute their review. Troy Brownfield had moved over to running Blog@, while David Pepose had taken over Best Shots. Due to scheduling concerns, Lucas Siegel was going to be handling the article on the day of release.

I had my review in hours before the article would run...yet my review was nowhere to be found in the article. Come to find out later that a fellow contributor had their review dropped, too.

We happened to be the only two voices in the crowd that had written negative reviews about the finale.

At the time, Lucas Siegel was actively pitching comic book work. I know for a fact that one of the publishers he was pitching to was DC.

To his credit, David offered to run the long review with day-after-release shorter reviews or with the Monday Best Shots column, but I really had no interest at that point. I didn't stop contributing to the site immediately, though I wish I had, since I wound up taking out a good deal of this frustration on Pepose at a later date (sorry, again, sir).

It should be noted: David Pepose made it clear that he disagreed with my conclusion that my review was left out due to the opinion expressed within it.

Brothers' piece and/or the comment thread it generated takes broad shots at members of the comics journalism community pitching while they're covering it. I can tell you that, despite later work towards careers writing comic books, neither Matt Brady or Troy Brownfield ever bumped my work or tried to dissuade me from a negative review (even with the headaches I would often cause Brady). I'd take a bullet for either of them. David Pepose never did such things, either, but I'm not aware of whether he plans on pursuing that sort of career and, if I'd worked under his lead longer, would probably feel the same about blocking the path between him and a gun.

I happen to very much enjoy the work of Marc Bernadin, who often positively covered DC Comics (Warner Bros) while writing for Entertainment Weekly (Warner Bros) before writing for WildStorm (Warner Bros). I wouldn't question the honesty of any of his work just because of that chain of events, nor do I feel it is fair to make assumptions about anyone in a similar position.

While I feel that pitching interests of "comic book journalists" can be a concern, I find the active pitching by site editors to be a larger one...dwarfed only by so many of the sites being beholden to the big publishers (for "exclusives" and "previews" to generate their income) that they make wholesale changes to how they do business. Articles blending right into message boards and comment sections become links to forums become suggestions that you friend them on Facebook and comment there, with the initial impetus for the movement being that publishers and creators didn't like seeing people criticizing them or their product right under their interview.

If not for the great friendships I forged along the way, I swear I'd wish I never wound up on the "professional" coverage side of the divide. Once you've seen behind the curtain, it all starts to lose its magic. And once you see how the sausage is made, it starts to turn your stomach.


  1. It can be a very tough line to walk, being a journalist with aspirations of eventually participating in the very thing he or she covers. For me, the solution was to no longer walk that line. When I made the conscious decision to start pursuing comics work, I told my editor that I had to recuse myself from covering them. (And when those comics started getting optioned by movie studios, I then had to recuse myself from covering movies.)

    The appearance of impropriety is just about as bad as impropriety itself, especially when working for a major media company, so I thought it best to simply remove the possibility entirely. Did I make contacts while covering comics that eventually led to obtaining new work? Absolutely. But since I was no longer in the position to be able to trade positive press for employment, even if I wanted to, me and my bosses could sleep at night.

    1. I can completely believe that, which is why I used your coverage in "a previous life" as an example why not every aspiring writer should have their objectivity questioned. Well, that and I've enjoyed your work, so it makes it much easier for me to label it as having earned its publication purely on merit.

    2. And thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. I've been there before, man. There was a time when I'd politely decline offers for fear of a conflict of interest. No big offers ever came my way, but still. But what you describe is such a regular thing now, with comic book journalists itching to sell their own kid sisters for a chance to pitch to Dc or Marvel.
    It makes me love the New Comics Day site, and the chance there to really let off steam. Integrity might not exist anymore, but comedy will out laugh us all.

    1. Maybe I'm a bit pollyanna, but I like to believe that integrity still exists and is more common than people willing to screw over friends for opportunities.


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