Variety Tells Studios to Stop Feeding the Competition

The only thing more bizarre than Variety's demand that movie studios stop feeding stories to other sites is how matter of fact they are about it.

"We simply said that if you give any of these show business websites the story first, then we'll put the story on the Web -- for the record -- but we won't put it in the print edition," Variety Editor Tim Gray told the Los Angeles Times' Big Picture.

The history of Hollywood journalism is even uglier than it is long, so this shouldn't come as any real surprise. But the revelation highlights how shortsighted people on both sides of the equation are about the current state of things.

Back in the days of Walter Winchell and "The Sweet Smell of Success," the whole idea of feeding stories in return for favorable coverage made a tragic kind of sense. The power to make or break careers was so concentrated that you had to keep certain people happy.

These days, however, any jerk with a wi-fi connection can --- and will -- gladly transmit casting news, trailers and photos across the globe in the blink of an eye. And as soon as they do, any other jerk with a laptop will rewrite/boost/gank them and to be sped along to millions of more eyes.

But go to any number of movie studio press sites and you'll find yourself asked for a password, one that can only be granted to you by a gatekeeper. To what end? Why on Earth would you stop a prospective consumer from seeing your commercial? Imagine going to Pepsi's website and being told that if you wanted to see their commercials and ads, you had to get permission. It's nonsense.

Eventually the time will come when studios -- and TV networks, for that matter -- get wise and start unleashing this stuff on the Internet on their own. Want the latest news, clips and stills -- not content, mind you, but promotional materials -- from "Justified"? Go to the show's website. Curious about Peter K. Vaughn's script for "The Vault"? Subscribe to his RSS feed. You want this kind of news -- they need for you to have it.

There will always be leaks, spin, exclusive interviews... as there should be. But the days of planting something as mundane as casting news or trailers should draw to a close. It's an unnecessary step that smacks of favoritism, which is never good for journalism, no matter how unimportant and lowbrow it may be.

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