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Things that are not film journalism (or, What the hell is wrong with the Internet?)
Written by Ivan Radford  
Tuesday, 17 September 2013 22:03

My week usually goes something like this: pitch something to a publication, get told they don't have the money to pay for it, rinse and repeat. Every now and then, a piece is approved, honed and, after lots of tea and biscuits, eventually filed.

That article is then edited. Then sub-edited. Then published. Then paid for.

At every stage of this process, someone has to approve it and say: "Yes, this is a good idea that will satisfy our readers, has been written well and, according to its original brief, is worth paying for without tarnishing our publication in any way."

Which begs the question: how does this get published?

Then, while you're still pondering the perviness of that one, ask how the hell this monstrosity happened:

I'm not one for witch hunts chasing down individuals on the Internet and lynching them, but seriously. What the fuck?

A random quote from the article: "Young is the key word with these two, obviously. That's okay. Think of this as like a hottie recruiting mission."

Regardless of whether writing is paid or unpaid, it goes without saying that human beings have a responsibility not to be leering perves who compare pictures of under-age girls. Or, at least, I thought that went without saying. But it turns out that the editorial team at JoBlo.com's "Movie Hotties" (yes, that's a real name) weren't aware of this.

Because all those steps above? That's what had to happen to this article before it spewed up all over my computer screen.

"I would like to write something comparing the hotness of under-18 girls Chloe Moretz and Abigail Breslin, whose boobs I showed in lots of pictures the other day. What do you think?"

"Great idea. We'd love you to write something comparing the hotness of under-18 girls Chloe Moretz and Abigail Breslin, whose boobs you showed in lots of pictures the other day."

"Ok, here it is! I've written something comparing the hotness of under-18 girls Chloe Moretz and Abigail Breslin, whose boobs I showed in lots of pictures the other day."

"Brilliant." *hits big red publish button*

A rather disgusting string of questionable decisions later, the articles are now online. But it's ok, because people don't want to read that, do they?

Here's the depressing bit. They do. According to TrafficEstimate.com, JoBlo.com receives 1,915,100 visitors per month. 1.9 million. Scroll down to the comments on either of those articles and you'll discover a load of people revelling in the sleazy, repugnant stuff. (Word of advice: Don't. You can't unsee it.)

You remember earlier this year, when a website attempted to write something satirical about Shailene Woodley's casting as Mary Jane in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but failed miserably and came across as misogynistic dicks? I was shocked by the commenters on that article, who celebrated its apparently rampant sexism. But it turns out that there are websites that give these people exactly that low level of content unironically - websites like JoBlo. Websites that are prominent figures in the film blogging community, of which I am a part. Websites that represent that collective noun as something I definitely am not.

1.9 million. That's how many people visit JoBlo.com. With every click those articles get, it encourages their editorial practice. And for some reason, people keep doing it.

Hold that thought.

Just after I saw those two JoBlo articles, along came website WhatCulture! - a name that is, sadly, becoming more appropriate with every passing month - and one of their writers. Laid out blow by sorry blow here, it was revealed that this writer apparently plagiarised articles, idea for idea, from other sites (particularly Cracked.com) to form their own list features (spread over multiple pages, natch). Not just finished content on the site, mind you, but the members-only workshop where writers pitch articles before they're published.

The guy in question isn't just a contributor - he's the Associate Editor of the site. What's really quite surprising, though, is the number of people who then appeared on Twitter to say that they'd had bad experiences with WhatCulture!'s editorial team. (A quick search of WC's name on Twitter also reveals that the site has lied in the past to find new writers.)

@Beard_22 told @The_Shiznit: "One of the greediest sites around. Used to be music editor, feel ashamed to have been associated with them... They hoover up any article that's lying around on the web that'll give them instant hits and recycle it. Don't… think there's anything original on there apart from some of the music lists. The 'editor' publishes anything."

‏@dandonnelly added: "used to write for them as my first real writing gig, feel fairly embarrassed about it now" @mr_nugent also said: "my experience wasn't *that* bad. I was just a bit embarrassed to write for them in the end - a horrible approach to everything."

Ashamed. Embarrassed. Those are strong words for writers to say about a former (unpaid) employer. One of the places I currently contribute to is Den of Geek. That Amazing Spider-Man debacle I mentioned earlier? Their response was to remove the pictures of Shaleine from their website. It's one of many reasons that I'm proud to write for them. If another website's own writers can't declare the same, what does that say about the publication? It's bankrupt of credibility.

But in terms of traffic, these kind of strategies are working for WhatCulture! and JoBlo. The former gets a huge audience for its apparently stolen articles, while the latter enjoys an equally large crowd salivating over its abhorrent perve-fest. Journalism training? Integrity? Writers who respect their editors? Who needs them?

1.9 million. Needless to say, this wee blog will never receive that level of traffic. It is, however, all my own (and a few other kind folks') work. You can look at all the typos to prove that. But to see other sites clock up millions of hits by doing the above? It's disheartening - and that's putting it mildly.

As I send a new website (VODzilla) into the wild, I have to believe that there are people out there who aren't interested in endless list articles designed to push up traffic figures. I have to believe that there are film lovers out there who aren't juvenile, ogling man-children that leave despicable comments below pictures of under-age girls. I have to believe that there are readers out there who want to encounter something that's of a decent quality - not just garbage that's never been edited, vetted or thought about. If not, what's the point? And what kind of future does that leave film criticism with?

Most sickening of all is these sites' complete lack of responsibility for any of this. They don't even seem to think they've done something wrong. WhatCulture! continues to churn out content without apologising, while JoBlo took down one of the above articles with only this off-hand tweet:

@MovieHotties: "We've removed this week's MovieHotties Face-Off article because it seemed to offend certain people. Now back to the Internet..."

Back to the internet. After this week, I miss the time when I used to get annoyed about simple things like negativity, hype or trailers for trailers.

Back to the internet. You said it, MovieHotties. You know what? I'm not sure this is a place I want to go back to any more.

Update: TheShiznit.co.uk have written their own far more detailed and eloquent take on this rather depressing week, including their first-hand experiences with WhatCulture! - check it out.


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