When Blogs Attack: IESB vs. Cinematical

by Paul William Tenny

For those of you who, like myself, didn't know about this, there was a panel at Comic-Con for the people who run blogs - I think it was called Masters of the Web, or something similarly ridiculous. Of all the websites and blogs on the Internet that I'd consider deserving of that title, none of them were present on that panel, much less IESB who I think sponsored it. I track their RSS feed in Google Reader along with about 70 other sites for news, along with Cinematical. I first heard about that panel from Cinematical when one of their authors wrote a story about an uneducated, arrogant rant by the owner of IESB lobbed against blogs in general and Cinematical specifically.

IESB's owner took great offense at being called a blogger, even though he is, just like the rest of us. The only traditional media is in print these days, everything online is what blogging has become. It isn't about media and bloggers now, it's about how professional you act when you write online and what you bring to the discussion. I try to bring a unique voice to movie and film news and I maintain a level of acceptable behavior so people find value in what I write, but I don't go to the lengths that the print press will.

Hardly anybody does, not I, not Cinematical, and not IESB.
From the rant which I haven't heard for myself, but this is a quote which I culled from Cinematical's take on this.

"It's not only established media ... we're not bloggers, for God's sakes. I'm not a f**king blogger. You know, we might have a blog, but we don't blog. Chud's not a blog. Latino Review's not a blog. And I hate when the established 'quote unquote' media treats us as bloggers. But at the same time, bloggers who live 300 miles away from any f**king studio will pick up our stories and they do the exact same thing.

On some level I sympathize with the greater question here, of what makes a site a blog, while somebody else is a "media outlet" or part of the "press." The distinction used to be obvious, people who wrote stuff the Internet were just people writing stuff on the Internet - something people have been doing since webservers started becoming a popular way to distribute information. Even though the term "blog" is new, it is simply rebranding a practice long held on the Internet of having a page of your own where you write down whatever you happen to be thinking about.

Once so-called professionals started doing the same thing, that's when the line became blurred. Contrary to popular opinion, I don't believe the two professions started mixing when bloggers got serious about their craft, I think it happened when real professionals started using the new medium to do what they've been doing all along. Blogging had its definition rewritten by the outside, but people don't see it that way, and some like IESB take offense from it.

This is why I subscribe to the definition being subject not to what is written and where, but how. The rant from IESB's Robert Sanchez is extremely unprofessional, nobody would argue otherwise, and so I would argue that a rant like that is really a perfect example of how blogging started and what blogging is in the minds of the general public. Sanchez would probably point to it as something you'd find on a blog, but not his site, which is greatly hypocritical and untrue, given their part in all of this.

It's unstructured, loaded with unacceptable language in a professional setting, insulting to a great deal of people who work very hard at blogging and make a very good living from it, and on top of that, is generally misleading. Ryan Stewart of Cinematical knew that this rant was directed at them, and I believe he had every right to question the premise that being a blogger carries a negative connotation, such as it is, and had a right to defend his publication.

That said, Stewart simply made the situation worse by comparing Cinematical's professional accomplishments in reporting film news to those of IESB, as a means of saying "we're doing exactly the same thing you are, only better." Therefore if Cinematical was one of those low down filthy contenting-stealing blogs, then so was IESB.

Those actions too were fairly unprofessional, even if Cinematical had a right or even an obligation to defend itself, it was still handled poorly. The pissing contest that began in Cinematical's yard in response to Sanchez's rant at Comic-Con has now spread, with IESB taking the low road and engaging in tit-for-tat insults and producing a list of accomplishments of their own.

The not-so-overt implication by IESB woven throughout their "response" to Stewart that since Cinematical is owned by AOL (Weblogs Inc. was bought out by AOL a while back) they shouldn't have any problems getting access to the studios and that being owned by AOL in fact gives them privileged access to Warner Brothers - and it does. However, given that Weblogs Inc. is owned by AOL/Time Warner, it would seem a logical conclusion that Cinematical by its very existence within that organization is more of a traditional media outlet than IESB ever will be, because they are independently owned and run - just like a blog.

But once again, the fact that such a debate is even taking place is evidence that the discussion has degraded into a pissing contest. IESB considers itself a legitimate press organization above the fray, and it's not. I won't argue that both these sites have far more extensive access and accomplishments than most others within the film industry, which is why they are two of the sources from which I syndicate news. I don't believe they are anything special to behold, and I argue that the only differences between the two sites and the real press is how they act both on and off the job.

The rant by Sanchez was unprofessional, and their willingness to continue the opposing-editorial proxy fight over which one of the two is the real blog is disgraceful. Though Cinematical had a right to address what Sanchez said at Comic-Con since that is simply legitimate coverage of an event, there was a high road to be taken, and they opted not to use it.

At this point I would argue that neither site has shown a particular penchant for the kind of professionalism that I identify with the real press, meaning they are both bona fide blogs; albeit large, respected, and successful.

I am none of the three, yet to a degree, I'm doing virtually the same jobs that they are. All three of us rewrite stories written by Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and the wire services. We all write original content, some more than others. They go out into the world to get interviews and have PR connections within the industry that I do not, because they have money to do that and I don't - so I don't compare my new site to theirs, and yet we share 2/3rds of what we do in common, and I'm damn sure a blogger if there ever was one.

That's just the game we play, and it's no different than what the press does. Virtually every Associated Press story is sourced from local news reports, rewritten, and then published nationally. Part of the deal for being able to syndicate AP stories is that all of your content goes into their available pool for for mixing and mashing.

What I'm concerned with isn't who has the best connections or who gets the most scoops or who does the worst job at giving proper credit to their sources, it's which of these two sites can rise above this ugly childish behavior and move on. Neither has done anything particularly egregious as a site, so this isn't a ground shaking event by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think it's serious. Things like this are what people expect to see on blogs, and it gives both sites, blogs, and the press a bad rep.

It really does make us all look bad.

Getting a scoop on the latest casting for a film in production is great, but it isn't worth having to slog through these pissing contests to get to it.

It just isn't.


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