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To Answer Patrick Sauriol and Coming Attractions

Hey folks, Harry here. And this is where I go through Patrick Sauriol’s editorial about online ethics, paying the proper respect and Ain’t It Cool News.

Before I go into Patrick’s editorial, I want to mention one thing. I’ve been contacted by several webmasters that are all for an online code of ethics to be adapted. I’m all for discussions about an online code of ethics. Moriarty and I have been talking about this for sometime and the Professor had a talk with IGN’s Den about some sort of summit where we would all get together and hammer something out. However, since that meeting we have discussed nothing further.

Personally, I will not conduct business or serious debates about journalistic ethics on the site. These discussions would be highly boring for most of you. They would be heated and passionate as there are always issues that would be disagreed upon. But these talks shouldn’t be about ‘playing to a crowd’ and making snipes at one another. They should be calm, cool and collected. They should be face to face and organized. And it should be 100% business.

Alright, now... onto Patrick’s piece on COMING ATTRACTIONS:

Patrick states: “With such a new medium as the Internet, should there be rules that site operators follow when it comes to posting stories on their site? And if so, shouldn't the bottom line of such websites be that they deliver an accurate, unbiased and fair means of sharing news information to their audience, if they indeed pretend to be considered an online news source?”

To the first question, YES. To the second question... Aint It Cool News is not a Joe Friday, Just the facts maam, news source. I believe in editorializing and presenting my opinion on each and every story I post. Now... within that I strive to attempt to be as accurate as I can be.... labeling unconfirmed rumors as exactly that, labeling confirmed news bits as that. As for ‘bias’? It is film, and to me there is ALWAYS a bias. For example... I love Kubrick, Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron, Verhoeven, Stone, Scorsese, PTA, Tarantino and so on. I go into each of their films rooting for them. I detail my love for their work in advance of my reviews, talking about their careers, where I was introduced to them... everything. Do I have a bias when talking about Carpenter.... Yes. Is it because I have had dinner at his house? NO. It’s because the man fucking made DARK STAR, HALLOWEEN, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, STARMAN, THE THING, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, THEY LIVE and so on.... Do I like VAMPIRES? Yes, wholeheartedly... and I saw the film and reviewed it far before I had ever even met the man. But... Having met John Carpenter, shared a dinner table.... Having my head cast in his next film, GHOSTS OF MARS.... Does it in one single iota make me pull a punch in saying that I didn’t like IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS and that I thought that his VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and ESCAPE FROM L.A. were pieces of pure unquestionable shit? No. So when I read GHOSTS OF MARS, did I like it to make him happy... or did I like it because I felt that the script kicked ass? I liked it because the script kicked ass. I have favorite filmmakers.... but that does not blind me to a bad bad bad film.... which... by the way is ALWAYS a matter of opinion. I mean... my god, I have had folks that Genuinely loved BATTLEFIELD EARTH write me angry letters.... and my site has contained positive reviews for GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, which... having just returned from seeing.... I LOATHED. Meanwhile, David Poland is trying to investigate ‘my relationship with producer JERRY BRUCKHEIMER.’ Well... I adore a good many of his films, but the one I saw tonight.... even though it has an actor that I know on friendly terms.... I HATE THAT FUCKING MOVIE AND NEARLY WALKED OUT. (You’ll see my review later tonight)

Is there bias... Yeah... I want to love every film. I want to give every film a chance. The reason I run this site and work my ass off on it is because I’m trying to properly set my expectations for a film, so that when I walk in that theater... I am in the best possible state of mind to see the movie. BUT... I freely admit and quite clearly on my review page I state:

“my philosophy that film review doesn't begin and end with the opening and ending titles. There is more to it. What we do and who we are affects the review. ”

AICN has always been about opinions, beliefs and thoughts... as well as it has been about the facts and the stories. To me, I don’t like cold facts... facts is not what makes one a writer or one’s writing entertaining and fun... it is that writer’s ability to put one’s soul and cheer and love right there on the page. Something I’ll delve further into on this page.

Next Patrick raises the issue about Father Geek’s intro into his news bit, and tries to imply that we were attempting to downplay Coming Attractions. Now, I have already apologized for the unfortunate wording of Father Geek’s intro, but quite honestly he was giving the proper intro from AICN’s point of view. I had chosen not to run the scoop because I had the information from 1 source, and Patrick's press release did not necessarily imply clearly that he had been sitting on the story for in excess of a week awaiting confirmations. So, I had to assume that the story was an unconfirmed rumor based upon the source that I had also received, so I was going to wait for further information on the scoop. Father Geek was receiving tons of requests from people to post the info so they could ‘talkback’ about it, so when he posted it... He included an intro saying that we had been holding off for further information.

Now as it turns out, Patrick did have multiple sources on the casting, but we did not know that. Though Patrick had a scoop, we did not have it confirmed. Regarding STAR WARS rumors and castings... there are a TON of folks out there that love to start rumors regarding these films. Why was it necessary to put a spin on the article in the introduction? Because we did not have the information or evidence in front of us that Patrick had and it would have been irresponsible from our point of view to post it in any other manner.

Next Patrick pulls up a link to an X-MEN story that ran on the site back on March 8th, which had a tagged on image of ROGUE which apparently COMING ATTRACTIONS ran first. This was posted while I was in Las Vegas covering ShoWest. The day I received Patrick’s letter and said I’d look into it was the day my Grandmother died and I had to go to Wichita Falls for her funeral and estate dealings. Unfortunately due to the family trials and tribulations, I never got around to it as my mind was on other items at the time and not on the site. It was forgotten, and for that I am sorry.

However, if we were going to set up ‘rules’ governing pictures, I would recommend that on all exclusive photos, that the original site that posts the picture not only tags the photo with their URL, but also includes the studio copyright information as well. Not as text beneath the photo... but as text included on the photo. Just like how I handled the X-MEN photos that I ran. The original exhibitor should assume this mantle of protection themselves. When news photographers run their photos... the photo credit is ALWAYS tagged on the item itself.

The next subject is the PATRIOT promotional screening that two of his reporters went to that was of 45 minutes of that film, and how I not only linked to him, but commented upon why AICN did not attend the event.

Here’s how I presented the link to COMING ATTRACTIONS on that story:

“For a damn fine bit of coverage of the event, click over to COMING ATTRACTIONS to check it out.”

I wasn’t downplaying their story. In fact I called their two reporters’ work “a damn fine bit of coverage”. HOWEVER, I felt like I should remind people that this was ONLY 45 MINUTES OF A NEARLY 3 HOUR FILM. That I had no doubt that Emmerich and Devlin could construct a powerfully visual and haunting 45 minutes, but that one should hold off the comparisons to BRAVEHEART and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN until one saw the ENTIRE FILM. That those sorts of judgments must be held till you had seen the entire film. To me... this wasn’t a dig at Coming Attractions or their two reporters, but just common sense. I do not just provide links to stories. To me I comment on everything. I am a commentator, an editor and a columnist... albeit one with a peculiar habit of not using spellcheck... not because I can’t operate it, but because I like showing my mistakes. I feel they make me human. I don’t like a computer to do my thinking for me. If I don’t catch the spelling... then it’s my damn fault, and it will reveal me as being the boob that I am.

Patrick then states: “Does AICN know how hard two of our CA writers worked on following up these stories? Did they stop to think about what kind of effort we may have put into getting these scoops, that we cared about trying to confirm sources, maintain contacts within the business, and try and report the story in the best means possible? When I read "intros" like this for CA stories on AICN, I don't get that sense at all.”

Patrick, of course I realize how much work goes into these stories.... Because I know how much work goes into stories here. My comments were not about ‘belittling’ your reporters efforts, but to remind them that they were perhaps venturing into hyperbole. And that their comments should be tempered to reflect that. When I wrote up my coverage of THE GRINCH screening I just saw, I made sure to emphasize that the film I saw was not complete. That it could be ambushed by a bad score from James Horner if he doesn’t nail it. That Digital Domain would have to deliver perfect effects. Too often people forget context when reporting and get carried away by the event. I’M GUILTY OF THIS AS MUCH AS THE NEXT GUY! But when I catch it, I try to correct it, and... that’s why I like Talk Back on my site because those folks also reign me in when I venture into hyperbole.

The next criticism that Patrick puts forth is upon Father Geek’s changing of ‘Hey Gang’ to ‘Hey Harry’. There is no excuse for this. And I have made Father Geek quite aware of it.

Next Patrick complains about the way I review movies. Fine Patrick... Feel that way, you’re entitled. Feel free to write your reviews as you feel like, and I’ll write mine the way I feel like. Deal?

Later Patrick says, “For AICN to maintain it's not bound by journalistic ethics or boundaries, yet be seen in a wider public spotlight as an online source for movie news and reviews is a conflicting message, don't you think?”

AICN has never maintained it is not bound by journalistic ethics or boundaries. I do not go on junkets. There have been occasions where I have been flown in by a filmmaker to see their film or set. And everytime I do this, I’m pissed that the site has not achieved a financial status to afford me the ability to fly in on my own via my own expense account. HOWEVER, by this Fall my ad contracts that will sell 100% of all ad space will change this. And at that point, I will be able to fly myself or the other reporters for AICN to sets, festivals, events and screenings. The site will be able to afford this, guaranteed. As it is, I’ve been able to fly myself to several of this year’s events... ranging from Cannes to ShoWest to some of the Los Angeles screenings this year... and I am beaming with pride over this. And I can not wait for the terms of this new contract to afford me the ability to not only never HAVE to accept a ticket or a hotel room... but it will eventually enable me to hire COPY EDITORS and other reporters and full time staff. AND... the site won’t be owned, operated or controlled by any forces other than it’s own.

Alright... now to address further topics from Patrick:

1) “Nothing was mentioned of the claims that peoples e-mails have been modified from their original content, or that feedback has disappeared from his site”

As Editor and Chief of AICN, we will always retain the right to edit and modify original content for the following reasons: to clarify, to protect the anonymity of the writer, to cut down on unwanted babbling about insignificant personal details, to remove objectionable terms (words that gaybash or offend) and lastly... I remove spoilers that I feel go too far and will ruin the film. IE... Darth Vader is Luke’s Father, The Girl has a Penis, The Star Is Really Dead, etc...

As far as deleting Talk Back posts... if the posts are INSULTING, OFF-TOPIC, SLANDEROUS, LIBELOUS, SPAM, ADVERTISING or CROSS-POSTED... you have a chance to be banned or deleted. Go check out the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II boards, you won’t see people disagreeing with me being banned or deleted. But if they start off their post with, “Harry you child fucker,” well.... guess what? Ultimately, just as a newspaper chooses which letters to run and not run... AICN will not waste it’s bandwidth with this type of material. This all falls under BASIC EDITORIAL DISCRETION.

2) “Harry went out of his way to again, make a point that AICN had received the Smits casting rumor "about 30 minutes before." Again, why do that?”

Because it was true?

3) “And again, this isn't the first time AICN and controversy have butted heads; the incorrect Oscar nominee list from last February is a prime example, or the reversal of Harry's review of 1998's Godzilla.”

And here is where Patrick decides to take a personal slam at me. I have completely addressed the Oscar List deal last February, to even David Poland’s satisfaction, I will not go into it yet again. It’s a waste of time. As for the GODZILLA reversal...

I suppose Patrick has never ever changed his mind on a film ever. His first impression must ALWAYS be absolute and unshakable.

The first time I saw GODZILLA, it was at the single best film screening event of my life. It took place in Madison Square Garden. Glen Oliver (AICN’s old head of Coaxial, now supreme reviewer and commentator on IGN’s wonderful FILMFORCE) and I were seated at the backend of the ‘youth outreach’ section upon the floor of Madison Square Garden. I was told there were over 20,000 people in attendance... and frankly I’d believe it. EVERY SINGLE TIME Godzilla appeared, the audience roared with it’s own approval. The ‘youth outreach’ group sitting in front of me would stand on their seats and Arsenio Hall pump their arms in circles while making ‘woof’ noises. There were beach balls bouncing around. Everytime GODZILLA took a step the entire building shook from what I can only describe as the largest speakers I have ever seen. When the film’s climax in MADISON SQUARE GARDEN kicked in the entire room exploded with cheers.

This was not a screening of the film at the local metroplex... this was an event, and the first review I wrote was a review of that event.

The next day I arrived in Austin, fired up and excited beyond all belief... I drug my Father from the airport to the Highland 10 theater, and sat down and finally saw the movie. I still like the effects and Jean Reno and Hank Azaria, but everything else was dull. Realizing that the mass of people in the world would never experience the film with thousands of others in Madison Square Garden, with the Taco Bell dog and Ali in attendance... with a good 400 kids standing on their seats pumping their arms... but that most would see the film in regular theaters.... with regular speakers and no beach balls at all.... I felt the experiences were different enough to comment upon them. And unless you saw the film at Madison Square Garden that night, and had that experience... I completely understand why you would think it odd. I, however, do not... and I do believe that Glen Oliver who sat right next to me... will agree 100%.

You should also know that these were 2 stories in 6145 stories I’ve posted in the modern incarnation of the website. The first one, the OSCAR story was a legitimate fuck up due to having a bad technical advisor and feeling time constraints upon the story. The second one was coverage of an event and a personal journey. In all.... I’d say that 2 in 6145 is pretty darn good... though I will strive to be better.

And with that... I have ended this rather long response. AICN is not the only website online. I do enjoy my site immensely. I love the various features and styles we report upon things with. HOWEVER, it is not the only way to do things. And thank God for that. I enjoy a great many sites online, and I never speak badly of Coming Attractions or the other websites online. I might get annoyed at comments from David Poland at times, but that does not distract from the fact he has good things to say on his site, and it’s the reason I go there.

When I talk to the press I do not say, “AICN IS THE WORLD’S GREATEST THING EVER!” I usually end up saying that I really like it, but it’s nowhere near what I want it to be. I feel Corona Coming Attractions is the best organized index of movie projects online. I feel Dark Horizons with Garth is best single page pulse on the world of pop film online. And I feel I do something very different that some people seem to really dig.

Hopefully, from this point forward instead of these front page longwinded slap matches... we can gather as an online community at a central location and meet in private and discuss the issues and come up with Charles Foster Kane’s Declaration of Principles...

The beauty of the internet is it’s diversity. We should celebrate it, and be happy for each others’ successes. As long as we bicker amongst ourselves in these bitter battles in front of the public we reveal ourselves to be small and childish. We as a community end up looking like a gaggle of jealous jackals tearing at each other for turf, when there is plenty for everyone. We need to meet in mass and collectively and privately talk and discuss. I am not opposed to that.

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