Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Embargoes Are Destroying You ... Don't You See That?

Work together on this one, folks. Because today should be a watershed moment. 

I will NEVER pick on a publication for breaking an embargo. 

Let me clarify ... if a journalist promised to abide by one and then blindsided the source, then that's a major problem.

But let's talk about the very nature of embargoes in the first place. 

I will not chastise Variety for the Toronto snafu this morning. Because it wasn’t a snafu. You actually get an "attaboy" from me. Maybe not in execution, but certainly in results.

Now, everyone will harp on me. “You don’t know how it works.” Or … “easy to preach, but let’s see YOU do it.”

Blah, blah, blah. Trade journalism has become the bizarro world. Everything is opposite. The news reporters are supposed to dictate the rules. Not the news creators. But look around, and it’s such a joke, because it's NOT what the profession is supposed to signify. Competing reviews are being sent out together -- because studios have told them what time is OK. Rival journalists are conspiring to appease TV showrunners by breaking news in unison. It’s actually horrifying. (The same kind of thing happened last night. IMAX numbers showed a record for "The Dark Knight Rises," but the company apparently didn't want any mention of it... while some people apparently acquiesced, Variety had it right.)

Instead of a business, the trade industry has become one big, happy family ... when it should be people trying to separate themselves. That’s why the reputation has been set that the trades have become PR folks. And that rep is often totally fair … because -- and I want answers -- what’s the difference between an organized press release going out from an agency…and three journalists at competing publications who also send things out together?

So this is where it begins. With you. This is editorial ground zero. The MOMENT you agree to an embargo -- no matter if that’s the unwritten rule -- then you have lost your power. If that’s OK with you, then fine.

But if it’s not, then do something about it. Your job is to get news. Not to get news with restrictions.

And relax....I know deals are made. But let’s reserve that for major stories that are sensitive and have some push-and-pull built in for the right reasons. But press release stories simply do not fall into this “let’s make a deal” category.

So while everyone will say that that’s the game … who said the game can’t be changed? Do something about it. It’s hard, but it’s the right thing to do.

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