Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Rush to Judgement
To write my Rolling Stone piece about the making of the movie Broadcast News (right), I plumbed writer-director James L. Brooks's brain, interviewed not just his actors and filmmaking team, but even the journalists he'd modeled the Holly Hunter character on, Jane Mayer and Susan Zirinsky. I was trying to retrace the steps that led him to such a strong -- and, it turns out, prescient and long-lasting -- story about an important shift in media ethics, in style over content.
review of the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, (left) I did something I've never done before or since: I got the Boys on the phone to clarify a couple of lyrics, references and samples I couldn't quite decipher on my advance copy.
It was an awkward conversation (even though I'd met them when profiling them during their first national tour, replete with inflatable penis, and escorted them through Graceland). But for me it was important.
I didn't think it was cheating. I had already formed my opinion of the album (and both album and review, I think, also hold up today). I just didn't want to be WRONG.
Today, with the instant transmission of the Internet, there's a rush to judge, to digest, to commentate, that has its upsides and downsides. I quite enjoy the morning-after recaps of Mad Men provided by Salon's Heather Havrilesky and New York magazine's Logan Hill and the SF Chronicle's Tim Goodman. And I wouldn't have found them without social media.
On the other hand, the only way to stand out (and be retweeted, and blogrolled) is to spew voice and zing and above all, have speed.
This came home to me when Parker Spitzer premiered Monday. The rush to judgement began even before air. Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post -- a CNN employee himself -- wrote a piece belittling some of the experiments we were doing behind the scenes during rehearsals. New York magazine did a cover story about how our show epitomized something about cable TV news, without waiting to see what our show actually was.
Someone I know saw New York's writer, Gabriel Sherman, on a talk show. When asked if he'd watched our premiere, he said he'd seen clips on the web.
And then within three hours of our premiere Monday nightt, the New York Times had posted Alessandra Stanley's review, which contained a factual error. It felt like she was so poised to malign that she mistakenly attributed something to Spitzer that Kathleen had actually said. I emailed her and the paper, and a correction was made.