My childhood pal Patrick Goldstein knows media journalism as well as perhaps anyone in the country. He started writing professionally at the Chicago Sun-Times, and then moved out to Los Angles where he worked for the Times, initially with a column on music, "The Pop Eye," and in more recent years on entertainment in general with "The Big Picture." He left the paper a year ago, taking a buy-out, and has been bidding his time since, writing freelance articles when the spirit movies him.
His has a tremendous, detailed article just published here in Los Angeles Magazine about the history, changes and wars today between the four entertainment dailies, called "Pulp Friction."
The piece deals in part on how brutal the inter-publication fighting has become and how it has impacted what's being written about, "Because while it may seem difficult at first to ignore media outlets that regularly call one another pieces of crap," Patrick notes, "it gets easier day by day."
One of my favorite passages comes from a tweet sent to Jeff Sneider, who works for the online publication, The Wrap, a reporter obsessed with getting The Scoop, at perhaps the expense of getting the details. Not only does the tweet come from a surprising respondent, but it serves as sort of the theme to the article, commenting as it does to Sneider's very public and ongoing rant about his having gotten a casting story before anyone but not getting it published (“Should I write I FUCKING CALLED IT in sand on the beach?” was just the first of his tweets) because it hadn't been properly sourced.
“'Rather than worry about EXCLUSIVES or FIRSTS why not focus on the story??' one of Sneider’s 10,000 followers tweeted. Only it wasn’t some featherweight fanboy. It was Fifty Shades producer Dana Brunetti. 'Your ridiculous desire to be 1st is annoying,' the producer wrote, adding, 'If you knew, then why not have a IN DEPTH article ready to go?? Isn’t that what reporting and journalism is? Not FIRST!'”
It's this need to be first -- which as the article develops is shown to be one of the byproducts of having the lightning-fast pace of the Internet today -- that is the central focus the article deals with.
"The race to be first," Patrick writes, "has spawned a sketchy 'we’ll fix it in the mix' style of journalism. 'Everyone in marketing and PR,' says one corporate publicist, 'has a tale that goes like this: When I told the reporter their story wasn’t true, they said, ‘We’ve gotta run it to drive traffic. If it’s wrong, we’ll correct it afterwards.’”
That's the dilemma that is at the heart of the article is whether this speed and competition improve interest, or is it something that will ultimately might it have a very different impact, from the law of unintended consequences? Something "which should lead anyone who believes information is power to ask a basic question: In an era that often values 'stickiness' and the almighty click-through more than accuracy, analysis, or context, has the race to be first put meaningful entertainment journalism on the endangered list?"
It's a very insightful, fascinating and lively article, far more than a mere "thought piece," thoughtful as it is, filled with outspoken interviews, pointed profiles of the major players, and wonderful inside stories, all done in the vibrant, yet open and objective style that marks Patrick's work.
You can read the whole thing here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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