Friday, November 04, 2011
To the right, you see a story, as it ran on BleedingCool.com before Rich Johnston was swamped with complaints about questionable reporting on it (Rich committed the error of putting too much faith in his original sources, it seems).
The story he was fed? The real story behind cancellation of the Victor Von Doom mini wasn't lack of orders, a shift in Marvel strategy or because the original editor (the witty & well-liked Alejandro Arbona) was shit-canned, but that the artist (Becky Cloonan) had personal emergencies that led her to not have finished ANY of the artwork for the mini. Marvel claimed to not have received a single, solitary page.
Sources came to Rich almost immediately upon publication of the article, telling him Marvel's story was patently false and that they had seen the completed pages for the entire first issue.
Which brings me to "The Brevoort"...
Most folks probably don't remember this to the point of obsession like I do, but when Civil War delays led to delaying a bunch of titles that tied into it, Tom Brevoort tried to cover for the fact that Marvel only owned up to it the afternoon before it was supposed to be on shelves because, FOR THE SAKE OF RETAILERS, they needed to hold off on announcing it until they had a plan in place for "fixing" it. I'm in good company thinking that the whole move screwed over retailers, seeing as how that was Tom Spurgeon's opinion at the time. Going toe to toe with Brevoort over how asinine his claim was wound up being the first time I recall Marvel complaining to Newsarama about me (expecting an unpaid reviewer to have his opinion kept in check by the site).
Fast forward to today, with the product being much lower profile, but the overall issue of cancelled Marvel product being a little more embarrassing and the delay in announcing it being, once again, unprofessional. So they leak that it is because a freelancer had personal life get in the way of their professional commitments and, though they still love her and no one is mad at her, it caused the series to currently be cancelled...even if that might not be the real explanation.
While everyone is mad at Rich Johnston for having reported this, the real focus of the ire should be his source. Really...even if true...they wanted so badly to take the heat off of Marvel's decision to cancel by taking a swing at the professionalism of a freelancer that, by their own explanation, seemed to be going through some trying times?
Johnston's reporting here speaks to the larger problem with the state of comics journalism. Due to so few sites being willing to potentially frustrate their meal ticket, the publishers, there aren't many outlets for news stories that might cast anyone in a negative light. Yet a significant number of the audience eats up those stories, making the race to be the one who puts out the few bits of real news that ever trickle out a cutthroat one.
So, Johnston trusts his source. His source places the blame as politely as possible on a freelancer. He makes at least a token effort to reach out to the freelancer, but doesn't hear back soon enough for his comfort. Why the discomfort? It's Friday afternoon and he's losing his most valued readership time. Weekends are generally more dead than weekdays on comic book sites. If he doesn't get this up before the end of the business day, he will have to debate saving it for Monday.
Meanwhile, every moment he holds on to it, there's a chance the story will leak out to someone else who will run it without further confirmation without having nearly the same relationship with the source that he might have. And then what happens next time? Will the source bypass Johnston for the person willing to run the story immediately on their word next time? Maybe he crassly does the math that the source who gave him this story will be in a better position to give him future stories than the freelancer he'd be respecting by waiting for their response or eating the story altogether.
But here we stand: at last check, there were a lot of people who screamed "FUCK RICH JOHNSTON", but I didn't notice anyone adding "...AND FUCK WHOEVER GAVE HIM THIS 'STORY', TOO!"