It’s been almost 2 years to the day since Lianne Spiderbaby crashed after defrauding her way into the hearts of horror nation and foot fetishists alike. Not even 2 years since Chris Alexander was caught comparing himself to Eurohorror masters in his own magazine under a flimsy pseudonym. Since the editor of the biggest horror mag in the world slandered this writer so recklessly and mendaciously. Since Tim Lucas mounted a short and ridiculous defense of Spiderbaby and destroyed his own credibility in the process. Even less since Charles Band tried to fool you into buying “authentic” Wizard big box VHS covers.
A lot of weird shit has gone down in the interval.
So where are we at today? What is the state of the union?
Mike White gives us the update on how Rue Morgue attracts web attention on social media.
Are you fucking kidding me?
2 years later almost to the date and we’re just straight up using web writers work without permission as clickbait. 2 years later and we still haven’t dealt with how web content is produced and how web writers get the shaft one way or the other.
The needle didn’t even quiver an inch, Horror Nation.
So that’s where we are, a dismal 2 years post-Spidergate.
Focus on that and let it gestate.
I hadn’t intended to really wallow in this one because officially this blog is done and I’m trying to move on to other projects but old habits die hard and I reached out to Rue Morgue editor Dave Alexander for his take on things.
What followed was a pretty interesting conversation and one that I am really glad Dave and I can have and be mature and respectful about it. Let’s say I’m not worried he’s going to run to Facebook to tell everyone I can’t write.
Anyhow, he raised some concerns about the piece and I think they are concerns worth hashing out so I’ve invited Dave to chat with me about them in a more public forum than email so readers can get the benefit of it as well. This is a really busy time of year in terms of getting the mag together so we haven’t managed to set anything in stone yet but hopefully soon I can let people know when and how that might be happening.
To address one of the big issues Dave had I want to be clear that prior to posting this piece I did not seek comment from anyone at Rue Morgue. Best practices are to at least try to get a comment or response from the subject of a story, that didn’t happen in this case.
Now let me tell you why.
This wasn’t my original reporting, this was Mike White’s. This post is a comment on original reporting done elsewhere. If there are problems with the original reporting that are amplified by my commentary, mea culpa but the responsibility for that is with the reporter who broke the story. Mike should have sought comment from RM and I am 100% willing to extend him the benefit of the doubt because I believe Mike operates as a straight up guy. It’s possible Mike went to publisher Rodrigo Gudino for comment, who I am told hasn’t been available the last few days. It’s also possible Mike went to Online Editor Andrea Subissati and got no response because that was my experience also – I emailed her right after I emailed Dave and to date haven’t received any response. It’s also possible Mike didn’t want to tip his hand and risk RM scrubbing all the posts that would have constituted the evidence of the story. Not all that crazy an idea when you consider the shennanigans people get up to on the internet, but of course we would like to think RM is better behaved than all that.
The other reason why is that this piece is intended as a meta-commentary. If you look at it you can see it is designed to show how one can link to content from another outlet or creator, add their own commentary and not detract from the original piece or try to siphon off an audience that you aren’t really entitled to. You never get the full gist of the story looking at my post alone, you need to click through to Mike’s site to get the complete picture. I don’t repeat Mike’s work, I build on it by contextualizing it in terms of a “state of the union” type look at where we are now in terms of media ethics in the horror game.
I tried to use this to demonstrate what best web practices can look like and why you need talented, thoughtful writers on your web team to build that connective tissue and make it your own. Too often web writers are unpaid throwaways or not writing at all – they are simply reposting content made by others like we see in these examples from Rue Morgue. Talent can take a stale repost that diminishes the work and turn it into something which enhances and supplements the original article.
Finally though, I’m not sure what kind of comment from Rue Morgue would dispell the bad vibes I got from seeing this practice in the wild. It’s all there in glorious black and white and there isn’t much I can conceive of in terms of justifying the practice or really mitigating against the harm. The only thing that could be done is to accept responsibility and lay out what they are going to do to fix the problem moving forward. This doesn’t mean the typical process of seeking comment should be overlooked of course, just that in this case being one step removed from the original reporting and with the circumstances being so prima facie out of line that my (fairly mild) condemnation here would still apply regardless of what they had to say about it. Could I have taken that extra step to contact the mag and assume Mike hadn’t already done so? Sure I could have and maybe a future me would have, but I didn’t at the time and for that I regret that Rue Morgue feels I was unfair.
Here it is though – Mike’s story is factually correct. It’s all right there in the Facebook posts and Rue Morgue’s website. Nobody got their facts wrong and any comment from Rue Morgue would be simply their response, which is important particularly since we still don’t know how they intend to handle the issue but it would not materially change the nature of the story or the facts therein.
The talk Dave and I shared over this has been interesting and something I’d very much like to bring out into the light because it encourages us to think about these issues and will hopefully foster a culture that cares about these issues. The net result is better experiences for readers and that is a huge part of my mission as a writer and commentator. I feel Dave Alexander shares these values as well and this kind of dialogue is part of what gets us to the next level in all this horror business.
So there it is. An update on a post that is longer than the post itself. Strange times but there we be. News on our chat will be forthcoming and I really hope Dave can participate. Stand by mutants!