Since this is Cannes season, let me throw out this question:
Do mainstream Hollywood journalist — who seldom seem to criticize any fluff or nonsense that the movie industry trundles out — get starstruck, like us civilians?
I may be wrong — it has been known to happen — but it just seems like so many of the reporters and critics at many of America’s great newspapers and magazines don’t do much criticizing any more. My observation is based on a very unscientific poll of sporadically reading dailies outside of New York City, where I live — not that the scribes in my little town do much of it, either, to tell the truth.
Am I crazy or wrong? (And yes, you can call me both.)
This is a very sensitive area for the media, and for good reason.
No proud reporter likes to be accused of being soft on the industry that he or she covers. You occasionally even hear the dreaded “S” word — shill — crop up. It is the lowest designation for a working reporter. It means you are in the pocket of your subjects and you aren’t representing your real masters, the readers.
There are loads of obvious reasons why a less-than-assiduous reporter/critic can fall under the spell of a canny publicist.
The promise of so much free stuff — access to glamorous to screenings and premieres and all that bling — can be intoxicating.
Getting interviews with movie stars can make a journalists feel like a big-shot and make it harder to rip some attractive icon who is calling you by your first name and treating you like a human being (as opposed to the way people in the newsroom regard you).
We live in a celebrity-journalism era, too, and yada yada.
But that’s no excuse for failing to tell it like it is, if a movie stinks.
In the sportswriting world, publicists had an expression: “Reporters? You can buy them off with a steak.”
Many years ago, if my memory serves me well, a reporter from the Village Voice was invited to go on a junket to some island in the Bahamas and see a screening of a big-budget disaster/rescue movie. This practice was more common then than it is now, thankfully.
The reporter dutifully went to the groovy meet-and-greets and parties and, basically, ate and drank lavishly and got a terrific sun tan for most of the long weekend. Finally, on the final night, the big moment came and it was time to see the flick.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the movie was a stinker.
The writer — as I recall — wrote a long piece about the weekend, mentioning every bit of free stuff and glitz available. And the journalist’s closing line was something like: “Oh, and the movie? It really sucked.”
I wonder how many of today’s mainstream journalism community would have the guts or chutzpah or nerve to write that succinct one-word critique today.
MEDIA MATRIX QUESTION OF THE DAY: Am I wrong?
Feel free to leave your comment right here.