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Entries in Journalism (6)

Friday
Sep182009

So Long, CBR...

It’s not without some sadness that I tell you this is my last day at Comic Book Resources. After three years, it’s time for me to discover what’s next. I’d never before been employed by one company for three years straight, so I’m very grateful to CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland for making it possible for me to make a living in the comic book business, and for being a good friend and boss.

In the last three years, I’ve been privileged to represent CBR at trade shows and press events around the U.S., author more than three hundred articles and interviews with some of the coolest talents in comics and film, and contribute to thousands of other CBR features. CBR’s grown to become the leading comics website of its kind, and in 2009 won its first Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism. I am proud to have had a hand in those achievements.

I’m also pleased to have committed a few acts of journalism at my time with CBR, like breaking the Minx cancellation story and my subsequent interviews with most of the imprint’s creative roster. But more than that, I’m happy to have helped bring wider attention to Jonathan Hickman, whose The Nightly News is arguably the best graphic novel of the decade; and to have given a platform to Timothy Callahan, whose insights into comic books enrich my already huge appreciation for the medium and its classic characters. Interviewing Tori Amos and walking around the bank set from The Dark Knight were also pretty cool.

Web content is a tough job and demands more of us than most readers will ever realize, so my hat’s off to anybody in this area of the business who endeavors to do good work. My particular gig at CBR was to operate even further behind-the-scenes than most, so I am very grateful to the creators, journalists and marketing staffers who’ve taken the time to say kind things about my work, including: Scott Allie, Axel Alonso, Chris Arrant, Jeremy Atkins, Nick Barrucci, Anne Chun, Jacq Cohen, Dennis Culver, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen, David Hahn, Jonathan Hickman, Rantz Hoseley, Sam Humphries, Geoff Johns, Joe Keatinge, Ralph Macchio, Heidi MacDonald, Jim McCann, Jamie McKelvie, Mark Millar, Chip Mosher, JK Parkin, Jim Valentino, and Brian Wood. I’d also like to say a special thank you to Marvel’s Arune Singh, who had this job before me, yet always made it feel like he was just down the hall anyway.

Thanks again to Jonah Weiland for everything he’s done for me, and also to my fellow CBR contributors for their hard work and friendship. I wish you guys and CBR the very best in the future.

Thursday
Jun122008

The Incredible Hulk: The CBR Review.

If you haven’t the time to read my full review, please enjoy this helpful comic book movie scorecard.

Tuesday
May132008

On live comics journalism.

As press, conventions usually suck hard. You’ve got so many places to be, so many people to talk to and so much information to write down and get published as quickly as possible, the event becomes a kind of extended cacophonous remix of a regular work day, stretched out over sixty hours or so, and almost nothing you write is any good.

I don’t know who’s responsible for this, but one day some asshole came up with the bright idea of reporting live from discussion panels. The basic idea is that you as the reporter sit there and listen to what people on the dais are saying and what questions the attendees are asking, type as much of it as you can on your laptop, then publish it all to your website via wifi. You repeat this again and again every few minutes until the panel concludes. The whole thing is predicated on the notion that there are loads of people at home reading your website and clicking Refresh again and again to get up-to-the-minute latest news on whatever it is you happen to be covering, right fucking now.

Naturally — and I am speaking for everybody, here — the quality of these live reports tends to be very poor if not altogether unreadable. Some panels aren’t even structured at all, with whole hours being dedicated to lively back-and-forths between professionals and fans; really long conversations, as opposed to orchestrated announcements or presentations, making your report that much harder to write and concurrently that much harder to read.

But you have to do it, because everyone else does it, and you can’t afford to have the same news published any later than the other guy, readable or not. The one saving grace, from the reporter’s point of view, is that there’s usually some poor bastard off-site whose job it is to go in and clean up the grotesque nonsense you’ve left him with, officially making it Somebody Else’s Problem and giving you enough time to get to your next panel and play out the dreadful thing all over again.

It’s unknown to me whether or not these “live readers” exist in numbers large enough to justify this desperate practice. The whole thing assumes these people would rather be doing it this way than just reading the same news all at once in a properly written and easily digestible form about an hour or so after the fact, and I just don’t know if that’s true. But it doesn’t matter because it’s too late to go back. If Dan DiDio or Jim McCann is on a panel, you can bet some underpaid hack (or not paid at all, if he writes for Wizard) is in the crowd typing furiously into a MacBook, trying to get all the pertinent details about the latest Secret Invasion tie-in or asking the guy next to him if he understood whatever the fuck Grant Morrison just said, all so some people on the internet can know that information at that precise goddamn moment

That is, unless you’re sitting on a pre-arranged and “embargoed” feature or interview that contains more or less the same news that’s meat to be announced at the event. More on that later.

Monday
Mar032008

On Wizard's alleged slave labor practices.

In the latest edition of his LYING IN THE GUTTERS, Rich Johnston detailed some of the alleged goings on at Wizard’s website as they relate to writers.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Wizard, it’s a print magazine and webzine that specializes in comic book news and other related nerd media, similar to CBR and Newsarama).

Just in case it’s useful to anybody who may be “working” there, aspiring to work in comics hype/journalism, or just following this Wizard Business bid’ness, I thought I’d share some thoughts. The following is just my take on what Rich has reported — I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of anything going on at Wizard.

There has been some debate internally at the website as to whether readers should be able to comment directly on articles, threaded underneath. Scott Gramling, the Editor-in-Chief, put the kibosh on that, telling people he did not want someone at Marvel to be able to print out one of the Wizard stories about their products and point to some text at the bottom that says “Joe Quesada’s an idiot for that Spider-Man story!”

While some negative comments that appear directly below an article might look bad in the scenario described above, placing such comments in another area of the site doesn’t really matter, as publishers already have people reading the comments and message boards of CBR, Newsarama and Wizard as well as other notable comics sites and message boards around the ‘net.

There are a lot of Wizard writers, past and present, annoyed that all the content before the Wizard website revamp has been deleted. A number of writers had written for Wizard for free with the express understanding that they’d be able to use that published work as reference for future work at other companies, and editors were given this justification as an express recruiting tool for young, unpublished writers to write for low or no pay.

And suddenly a lot of resumes have a lot of broken links.

Not only is this tragic for those writers, it’s highly n00bious of Wizard. I don’t think it needs to be explained why suddenly making years of content unavailable is bad for business. And what of all the creators and publishers whose websites link to those deleted articles? Repurposing content is a time-honored tactic in the publishing business, and a lot of content will continue to be read months and even years beyond original publication, which means more page views, which means more money.

As to the new volunteer class of Wizard writers, recruited from their message boards, I understand a number are writing three or four columns a week for no pay. The justification is that there is no money in online only articles, but if they keep writing they might have the chance to get something in print. Cue a couple of minor sidebars in feature articles in the print magazine to keep them sweet.

Who on Earth is going to believe that in 2008, the only thing that makes money is the print magazine? If that justification was actually put to the new writers, they are being lied to. Either that, or Wizard just handles their Web business so badly they don’t make any money on that website, which I find very unlikely given the success of the whole Wizard enterprise.

Writers - and this applies to all Web writing, journalism, entertainment writing, corporate copywriting etc. — you don’t have to write one word for free — ever. Unless all you want is to just go on a piece of shit press junket and ask Kirsten Dunst what kind of dog she walks or something, this poaching from the message boards thing is a bad idea. Nobody will take you seriously if you’re this sort of writer. It’s already hard enough to take the professionals seriously. If you work for free, you’re “fan press.” Don’t do it.

Now, as a freelancer, you’re probably not going to make a living on the money you get, at least not writing for the comics press, but you will get some money, and you will be a professional.

If you want to get your foot in the door and you’re willing to do the work for free, start your own site or blog or try to get hooked up with an existing fan-run operation. If you’re good and you get yourself out there, you’ll be in a better position to ask for money if and when you want to write for a commercial site, and you may even be courted directly. You will build your own resume, and guess what?

It won’t get fucking deleted!

Thursday
Jun282007

//**AUTOMATED OUT OF OFFICE REPLY**//

Hi, < insert human name>! I'm terribly sorry, but I'm unavailable today and tomorrow while I'm in Chicago to check out a little movie they're making out there. HA HA ha HA HA ha HA HA ha HA HA HA ha HA HA HA ha HA HA HA HA HA HA HA ha ha ha HA HA ha HA HA HA ha ha ha HA HA ha HA HA HA ha ha HA HA HA HA HA HA HA ha HA HA ha HA ha ha HA HA HA HA HA HA ha HA HA ha ha ha HA HA HA HA HA Best, __________ Andy Khouri Staff Writer, CBR http://www.comicbookresources.com //**END TRANSMISSION**//