I’m Glad I’m Not a Freelance Journalist Anymore

I put myself through college, and supported myself for a few years after graduation, covering the entertainment industry for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Newsweek, Starlog, American Film, Playgirl, and a bunch of other publications. I went to a lot of movie sets, interviewed a lot of movie stars, and attended a lot of press junkets. I had no illusions that what I was doing qualified as major journalism, but I had ethical standards. I asked whatever questions I wanted to ask, I never let a publicist or studio dictate what I was going to write (even if my employers let them pay my way to distant sets), and I wrote the story I wanted to write.

I couldn’t do that today. Because now "journalists," and I use that term lightly, are required to clear their questions with publicists first… to agree before an interview not to ask certain questions about certain subjects.  Or, as in the case with junket for MR. AND MRS. SMITH, reporters had to sign contracts agreeing not to ask Brad and Angelina about their relationship.

When one reporter – who, like all the attending journalists, was required to
sign a "loyalty oath" vowing not to ask personal questions – inquired about the
stars’ onscreen chemistry, Pitt replied, "Between me and [Smith costar]
Vince [Vaughn]? It was palpable. I mean, we knew immediately when we looked into
each other’s eyes . . . "

I’d refuse to sign a document like that. And I wouldn’t clear my questions with a publicist first. So I’d probably be blackballed from studio junkets and interviews…which is why I’m glad I’m not doing that any more.

Does the studio really think America is clamoring to know about the
making of MR. AND MRS. SMITH? Or if Angelina did all her own stunts. Or
if Brad improvised any of his lines. Hell no.  People want want to know
if Brad was fucking Angelina while was making the movie and if he’s
fucking her now.  Thats the only "news" value at the moment in MR. AND
MRS. SMITH. There’s nothing else to write about (except, perhaps, that
the director is a strange and difficult guy to work with, as the LA Times reported a few days ago).

Of course, if writers and editors in the entertainment press had any self-respect or journalistic integrity whatsoever (which they clearly don’t), they’d band together and refuse to accept any conditions on their coverage. And if the studios didn’t like it, they could kiss goodbye any publicity for their film. Overnight, the conditions placed by publicists on entertainment reporters would disappear. Because the fact is, the studios need the magazines and TV shows more than the shows need them.

20 thoughts on “I’m Glad I’m Not a Freelance Journalist Anymore”

  1. They still get what they want. By not allowing anyone to ask, it keeps the mystique alive. I’m starting to think the whole rumor was just publicity for the movie.
    I’m starting to see a parallel between the star’s life and their movie coming out.
    “Uh, but don’t ask me about that. I’m here to talk about the movie.”

  2. This is a problem all over the media realm. What you get is a co-opted stengographer, thus just another arm of the PR machine. That’s not reporting. Same goes for covering the administration. It’s a disturbing trend.

  3. The right-wing is vast only in comparison to the half-vast left wing 🙂
    But back to Brad & AJ … Not only do we want to know IF he’s porkin’ her, we want to know how!

  4. Well, judging from the preview of the movie that I saw, the question of whether or not he’s banging her is about the only interesting thing regarding this project. Film looked pretty bad.

  5. Based on your ridicule David it’s apparent you don’t know much about Journalism. Book reviewing isn’t journalism. Lee does. It’s not a conspiracy when it’s in the open. I’ll bet liberal bias is something at least Kitty will affirm. In her mind anyway since it’s bogus. I’ll take anyone on point by point.

  6. Journalism is reporting: news, live sources that you the reporter have talked to; fact-checking. Right of center books get reviewed, so Hess, who favors this leftist fallacy and hates journalists naturally comes forward to prove my point. That’s what I expected.

  7. I think ‘journalism’ is like ‘orange’, in terms of finding words to rhyme with it. But therein is a challenge that goes to separate the Writer from the creative typist.

  8. I don’t know who Jim is and his website doesn’t come in. I have a degree in Journalism. Funny how they didn’t train us as fiction reviewers? I work as a biological scientist working on endangered fish for the US Dept. of Interior. I write about that sort of reality. Don’t waste your time indeed.

  9. It finally came in. Good credentials, but that reviewer niche is an area all to itself unlike say the background of Michael Connelly, an actual crime reporter on staff to major newspapers. I don’t know anyone who considers Michiko Kakutani a journalist. A good reviewer sure, which is obviously the case with Mr. Fusilli.

  10. There’s something going on here that’s beyond me, but to the point, I’d say reviewers are journalists, and Michiko’s a good example of why. Her expertise is conveyed through adherence to a consistent set of standards, she writes clearly and her work almost always bears evidence of reportage and empirical knowledge. Tom Nolan’s a good example in our field: When he reviews Robert Parker, Dennis Lehane, Denise Hamilton or Laura Lippman, for instance, he brings to the assignment a proven expertise in the history of American detective fiction as demonstrated by his Ross Macdonald bio, which I’d call a significant work of journalism. Like Michiko’s, Tom’s work as a reviewer is informed by his journalism and, in my opinion, is journalism.
    Forgive me for prattling on, but I’m sort of dismayed by how many people in our field misunderstand the role of reviewers. You can take what I say with a grain of salt or two, but Lee’s blog’s a popular one, so I wanted to post something in defense of reviewers.

  11. By the way, Jim certainly knows what he’s talking about on the journalism front. Besides being an acclaimed mystery writer, Jim Fusilli also writes for the Wall Street Journal and reports for National Public Radio.

  12. Could it be that what we have is a confusion between journalism and reporting? Which is to say, reviewing can be considered journalism, because (in a perfect world) it offers insight into the work from an informed and reliable outsider, but not reporting because, other than the opinions in the review, it doesn’t give the reader any new information.
    Or not. Hell, I’m just a biologist. What do I know?

  13. I’m really sick of this. I defined it as a separate niche in the media, but it isn’t reporting per se which was what Lee was referring to. Everyone in this business is so touchy about their turf. The question becomes in this light, what is journalism? Then we get anyone with a blog is a journalist, yet those are and mostly opinion. But there are opinion journalists although columnist seems to be the term used by the papers. The editorial page is separate from from the news, yet most people don’t know the difference. They think it’s all opinion, so this muddies the water further in my view.
    Like I said I have a degree in journalism and they don’t have a course on review writing. They have reems of them about reporting all of the areas of the news. Reviewing doesn’t require interviewing the source. You can be extremely selective about what you write about. Pod-dy-mouth in turn is doing journalism because she’s conducting interviews and reporting new information. Connelly did that as a crime reporter. I do it to as an environmental journalist from far-flung field investigations.
    Jim can defend his territory but I can defend mine as well. If you don’t agree then don’t agree. That’s your choice, but blatant self-interest certainly governs the sensitivity. Reviewing is more like PR than journalism from my training. Saying that isn’t an insult to anyone unless you let it be. Making biologist cracks is.

  14. Speaking of personal insults this is what I get fror reporting the truth about POD books.
    Well hello mark.
    Im just curious as to why you seem to love making rude comment on POD-Dy Mouth girl’s blog? Are you like 5 years old?
    I bought your book, just to see exactly how you write (a POD book nonetheless) and.. im appauled. You honest to god, truely wrote this book? My 3 year old son could have done that.
    Wait. Are you a lesbian? 🙂


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