I love Hollywood Reporter TV bloggist Ray Richmond’s “10 Iron-Clad Unwritten Rules” of those dreadful TV critics’ dog-and-pony shows put on by broadcasters for them. For newbies, the Television Critics Association represents more than 220 journalists writing about television for print and online outlets in the United States and Canada. Personally, I consider being a buttboy like that no way to report the beat, but I recognize that podunk papers have a harder time getting to the big guys. (What’s amusing is that RR’s rules also apply to those derelict types who attend those equally dreadful movie junkets.) In my opinion, the best summary of everything that’s wrong with the TCA was done by Sharon Waxman for the American Journalism Review back in 1998 — Spoon-Fed News. (Interesting factoid: knowing that Waxman was writing this piece, the TCA cracked down on their rules regarding gifts.) Actually it’s telling to look at my (typically) loud-mouthed quotes from back then and see that I, and my opinions, haven’t changed:
“But eliminating the freebies does not address the bigger problem: Worse than eating what the networks serve for lunch (and breakfast and dinner) is swallowing their spoon-fed news. “It’s ludicrous,” says Nikki Finke, [then] New York magazine’s West Coast editor and a veteran Hollywood reporter. Finke refuses to attend the meetings, saying they provide no useful information. “It’s always the same. If you’re the No. 3 network you’re moving up. If you’re No. 2 you’re almost at the top, and if you’re No. 1 you’re staying there.” … Finke says that many of the journalists who go to the press tour meetings (and the editors who send them) are just plain lazy, content to fill their notebooks with quotes that will provide fodder for a couple of months’ worth of feature stories and TV columns … Is this any way to cover the most influential medium of popular American culture? Finke says it isn’t. “If you’re interested in TV as a business, you’ll have sources… There are agents, managers, producers, lawyers, studios–there is a whole range of people who run the industry,” she says. “But those journalists never talk to the other people.” Ouch. She has a point. The meetings seduce journalists into thinking that they’re doing real reporting, when in fact real reporting only happens as an adjunct to the main event. The networks keep you so busy with “news conferences” (read: promotional events) that it’s easy to forget that the reporter’s objective is not the same as the networks’. .. But Finke scoffs that even the better reporters at the TV meetings are playing the networks’ game. She counters: “I’ve compared interviews I’ve done with executives and producers on their own, and they have literally said things 180 degrees different than what they said at the TV critics’ thing. Because it’s bogus. Who’s going to speak honestly when all their bosses are standing right there?”
See my recent Screwing The TV Viewers for a story that the TCA totally missed.