Attack of the Snarkhammer

March 12th, TechCrunch posted an article about the newest Jake Gyllenhaal movie The Source Code. The movie is about a computer program that allows Gyllenhaal’s character to relive the last 8 minutes of anyones life in order to stop a train explosion.

Due to the high tech title and severe trend of Internet gaming and social media, promotions for the film have been largely online. There is a Facebook game which calls players to copy and past messages about the movie on their friends walls, and a Microsoft scan tag that is widely popular. This tech savvy promotion was essentially the whole angle of the article.

However, Summit, the films production company didn’t like the article. Moviefone liaison between TechCrunch and Summit promptly emailed writer Alexia Tsotsis to “tone down the snark” in the article. This got the writer so up in arms she wrote an entire article blatantly stating she would not town down the “snark” and turn her article in to a “puff piece” media “blowjob” for Summit.

“The issue is simply that Summit thinks it can pressure us, through an AOL sister site, into making a balanced report more glowing,” wrote Tsotsis. “And while it’s inappropriate, it’s not surprising.  What is surprising, and sad, is that Moviefone/AOL actually tried to comply with their request and asked us to change our post.  It’s not just sad, it’s wrong.”

Moviefone Editor in Chief Patricia Chui personally wrote a response to the online showdown clearing up a big point in the article. Chui wrote that whoever emailed Tsotsis to edit her article was in the wrong and had no right to do so. They liaison was supposed to merely act as a messenger between the movie studio and reporter. She went on to say that Moviefone works hard to have good relationships with movie studios and isn’t there to ensure that films get glowing reviews.

“We take editorial integrity seriously at Moviefone, and it’s painful to be depicted as a pawn of the studios when that is emphatically not the case,” wrote Chui.

Personally, I did not find any “snark” in the original article at all. It was clearly less offensive than other things Tsotsis has written. I like humor, sassiness, and verbal surprises in articles I read. It makes everything more interesting. However, the Moviefone liaison is at fault here. Although the studio did ask for less “snarkiness” the liaison should not have asked for the rewrites. Their job is to pass a message, not to paraphrase and have a message get misconstrued. It’s classic “mouth meet foot” syndrome as a consequence to paraphrasing.

Moral of the story: if you ask for the snark to get turned down, everyone involved will be exposed to the wrath of the almighty Snarkhammer.

Originally Published on: Mar 16, 2011 @ 23:54

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