Media moaning

We’ll be getting into this more when we write our big wrap-up, but the ironic lack of media access to panels at San Diego has gotten in just about everyone’s craw:
Blog@Newsarama’s JK Parkin:

1) There should be a designated number of seats for media who are there to cover the con, so that they can do their job and cover panels. Because if you’re covering multiple movie panels on Saturday that are in different rooms, chances are you’re gonna be screwed. When I was at the Neil Gaiman panel, there were three rows of seats marked “studio executive only” behind me … and hardly any of those seats were taken. Now, if you’re a studio, who do you want at your panel … your studio executives who probably already know what’s going to be presented because they approved it, or the media, who can take your message and spread it to the masses who couldn’t come to the con (or who couldn’t get to through the doors), which is why you’re at the con in the first place?


But it wasn’t just comics bloggers who felt left out!

Bags and Boards Tom McLean:

The other issue is one that specifically affects the large media contingent that attends the show. Namely, that for panel attendance, there is no way for media reporters to reliably gain access aside from standing in line like everyone else. Yes, there are press-only opportunities — lots of them — but there is a need to cover the actual event of the panel, to hear what is announced to fans and see what the fan reaction is. The con may need to consider setting aside a space in each panel room for the media. Make them first-come first-serve, and if by some reason all those slots aren’t taken – then give them to fans. But the job of covering the show this year became increasingly complicated by the need to plan and stand in line, often for long periods of time, in order to ensure access to these events.


Chris Ullrich at Cinematical:

These guys and gals (some of which don’t even get paid) work very hard so I just want to thank them for doing a great job controlling people I’m sure are very hard to control. Of course, if the Con had a designated area for the press to sit so we could cover the events that might make things easier. But that’s another story for another time.

Animator Harry McCracken has more general complaints:

The crowding would seem to have something to do with Comic-Con’s complete refusal to limit its scope or differentiate between the important, the worthwhile, and the abysmal. It certainly isn’t following its mission, which reads as follows:

Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

I have nothing against Sarah Silverman, but I fail to see how her TV show is relevant to that mission. I don’t understand why there are booths hawking swords and hard drives, or why it makes sense for Playboy Playmates to be signing photos on the show floor. It rankles me that the con’s program book celebrates every comic, TV show, and movie it mentions as a hit, a masterwork, or both.


Comments

  1. “But the job of covering the show this year became increasingly complicated by the need to plan and stand in line, often for long periods of time, in order to ensure access to these events.”

    The mobs of people should give us all a clue that the organizers of the Con and its thousands of sponsors, advertisers and product-hawkers don’t really need (or particularly care about) the added press coverage of the “lowly” comic book outlets.

    And really…is anyone out here in Fan Land suffering from a lack of information? I think we get everything we need from one source or another…and if I don’t find out about what went down at the “Secret Messages in Golden Age Advertising” panel, I guess I can live with that.

  2. It wasn’t just the pro panels that got this treatment.

    Whoever scheduled the room for the Harry Potter fan meet up (two weeks after the movie’s release, and a week after the final book’s release) really flamingoed up.

    The room was *full* with a good two hundred people still queuing up to go in. WTF?

    That said, I didn’t even bother getting in line for the Heroes panel (the line *wrapped around* the second floor), and Wil Wheaton didn’t even get into the Futurama panel. (Both panels were in Ballroom 20, btw.)

  3. I think they should add some sort of reserved seating for exhibitors as well. I was able to go to one panel during the whole show. The only other panel I really wanted to go see had people lined up hours in advance, not to mention the squatters already in the room that were just waiting for the panel that was after it. As a small press exhibitor, I can’t leave my table to wait in line two hours to see a one hour panel. Even with friends or other exhibitors able to watch my table for me, it’s quite a burden to put on people that want to see panels as well.

  4. I’m not surprised that members of the media think that they deserve special treatment.

    I fail to see how that benefits the actual paying convention customers at all.

  5. Torsten Adair says:

    SDCCI no longer needs press coverage. They have established themselves as the Mecca for all true believers, geeks, and nerds.
    Panels can be covered by podcasts, fans in the room, and the panelists themselves (see: “gay men” snog at the Eisners).
    An exhibitor can rent a space for media interviews and briefings, or the Con can provide a space.
    If someone wishes to attend a panel, then they follow the Congressional Hearing system: hire someone to stand in line for you, then claim your space in line ten minutes before the doors open.
    otherwise, do an exit interview with someone who was at the panel.

  6. Chad Anderson says:

    Perhaps some of those paying customers missed a panel, and they’d like to read about it afterward? And since exhibitors at the con are also paying customers, I think they’d appreciate some media coverage of whatever project they’re there to promote, and making it more difficult for journalists to do that seems counter-productive.

    Nat, maybe I’m reading more snark into your tone than was intended, but I fail to see how the solutions being suggested would be any different from newspapers getting press passes to sporting events or pre-release movie screenings, etc., etc. Of course for all I know, such a system is already in place for the bigger media players.

  7. Torsten Adair says:

    One more thing… at my Barnes & Noble, we host a lot of celebrity events. When the media show up, they are corralled into i little pen near the stage, where they can take photos. They are NOT allowed to ask questions, but are welcome to stay and take notes. This is what SDCCI should do: offer a press area with no seating, near an exit door. Each Guest Of Honor would also have a scheduled press conference for media only.
    The Con should also offer a live continuous video feed to any website who requests it. This would reduce the media demand, while preventing the Con from spinning controversy.

  8. I understand there were something like 3000 press badges issued this year. I’m wondering how it would be decided which press should get special privileges to cover events and which shouldn’t. Similarly, there were something like 5,000 exhibitor badges issued. I’m an exhibitor myself, and aside from the two panels I was on, I saw only 5 minutes of another, but I don’t see the feasibility of having a special exhibitor seating area either.

    Jackie E.

  9. snoid says:

    “Nat, maybe I’m reading more snark into your tone than was intended, ”

    No you’re not.

  10. That said, I didn’t even bother getting in line for the Heroes panel (the line *wrapped around* the second floor)

    My wife was in that line for something like 2.5 hours and still didn’t make it into the room. She wanted to go to the Battlestar Galactica panel afterward, and was determined to get something out of standing there so long, so she stayed in line after they closed the doors. This left her right by the front doors to the room during most of the Heroes panel. She said it was painful to hear everyone inside cheering, without knowing what was going on. She eventually was able to watch the video footage online — after we got home.

    I understand there were something like 3000 press badges issued this year.

    I actually ended up with a press pass this year at the last minute, since I agreed to do daily reports for Comics Should be Good. I didn’t need it, but figured it would get me a little more access than the regular badge, so I picked it up. In the end, all it got me was recognition from a couple of people I talked to, who said, “Oh, Comic Book Resources!” There was (apparently — I never got far enough forward to see it) a press corral for photographers in Hall H, but the one time I was there, the the row of chairs was so packed that I didn’t want to mess with getting out and back in.

    As for figuring out which press members get “special treatment,” maybe instead of blanket access, they could have a reservation system. Set aside a certain number of seats for press, but require each person to sign up ahead of time for a specific panel. And cut that off well before the start of the panel. (Just thinking out loud.)

  11. Tom Galloway says:

    Personally, I’d like some system put in where con attendees (and I’m including Exhibitors and Pros and the like in this) could get to sign up in advance for one Hall H/Room 20 item and be guaranteed seating up until, say, 5 minutes before the start. There’s usually one or two items in those rooms I’d like to see, but aren’t willing to wait several hours to insure that I get to. And yes, I’m aware this requires a whole new “registration” system and puts stress on Programming to get a schedule for those rooms set fairly early. I understand that the Con may think this is too much effort, but figure it’s worth at least tossing out.

    I’ll also confess to completely ignoring the “Studio Reps Only” signs and sitting in those seats for both Neil’s spotlight and Quick Draw (with the excuse for Quick Draw that I actually do need to be up near the front as Mark traditionally calls on me first to do the guess words from drawings game as well as making use of my having a stopwatch function on my watch). More than half were empty, I strongly suspected most people in them weren’t reps, and to be blunt, for those two items there is absolutely no reason I can think of why a studio rep should get any special treatment or privileges whatsoever.

  12. “Perhaps some of those paying customers missed a panel, and they’d like to read about it afterward?”

    I haven’t noticed major panels going without coverage under the current system.

    “Nat, maybe I’m reading more snark into your tone than was intended, but I fail to see how the solutions being suggested would be any different from newspapers getting press passes to sporting events or pre-release movie screenings, etc., etc.”

    Pre-release moving screenings are intended to be press events. That’s what they are there for, much as press conferences are. But even if that weren’t the case, I don’t see that other places do it inherently makes it right in general, much less specifically right for panels at Comic-Con. (As Tom McLean noted, there are apparently plenty of press-only events for relevant folks to get information to the press.)

    It’s not particularly snarky to note that the people who Heidi cited as calling for more special treatment for the press were members of the press, and not, say, the people who were standing in line for two hours to get into an event who may find themselves kept out of it were there special press set-asides . Rather, it seems to me an appropriate point to raise when addressing the claim that this “has gotten in just about everyone’s craw”.

  13. I had the darnedest time getting into ballroom 20. I think they just need better overall crowd/panel management. Perhaps the increasing masses are starting to overwhelm the Con.

  14. I am curious where our common media source weighs in on this. Heidi, you only gave us other people’s opinions. As far as your experience as a media member at Comic-Con, does it need improvements?

  15. “Pre-release moving screenings ”

    Of course, I meant “movie” screenings. I don’t think we need floating film shows!

    But I did want to take a moment to agree with those who are hoping with some general improvement on the seating system. Someone squatting through two hours of panels they’re not interested in to make certain they have a seat for the one they really want is obviously not enjoying the best possible experience… nor are the people who don’t get into the panel they want because of the seats filled up by those squatters. Can’t say that I see an easy solution to this, though, but I hope someone comes up with one.

  16. Paul Worthignton says:

    “Animator Harry McCracken…”
    That’s just Harry’s animation fan site; he is the editor in chief of PC World.

    As a tech journalist, I’ve gone to huge crowded keynotes for 20 years — and there is always reserved press seating. It’s not “favored” treatment: it’s just business, meant to ensure that the company’s message gets propogated as much as possible. Any company making the effort to put on a big presentation must decide if it is more important to reach the fans [or business attendees] at the event, or the presumably many more the media would get the message to.
    Of course, that’s a decades-old paradigm: now that almost everyone has a blog and in at least some sense is a journalist, it makes it a trickier call for those deciding who sits where.

  17. E. Verstegen says:

    I too stood in line for hours to get into Heroes, and didn’t quite make it. But I stayed in line since I wanted to see Futurama. I made it in after some of the Heroes fans left B-20. My frustration, once in this room (as well as the Smallville panel) was that I knew a lot of people were still waiting to get in after the doors were closed, and there were empty scattered seats available all around.

  18. I think they need to think about “overflow” rooms for the biggest panels, where the unlucky (but interested) can still watch the panel on a large screen tv screen. That way, they can still (somewhat) experience the panel without being completely (and literally) shut out.

  19. Robert Morales says:

    Nat Gertler’s bleating about “special treatment for the press” is blind to the fact that the entertainment press isn’t at SDCC for fun – it’s there to do a job that’s sanctioned by the con WHICH GIVES THEM PRESS BADGES. That the press is the only complaining about not being facilitated to do its chores is not on par with asking for its own wet bar. Grow up.

  20. No, Robert, I’m not blind to the fact that the press (or at least some of them) aren’t there for fun (with all those press badges, I suspect that many wearing them are indeed there for fun.) However, I do believe that CCI’s primary job at the convention should be to entertain the paying customers, their members.

    That certain members of the press feel that the people who are there to have fun should have less fun because they’re not satisfied with the forms of special access that they already have… well, that doesn’t seem real convincing to me If you want to come up with a reason why it’s Comic-Con’s responsibility to give these people additional special access, feel free to do so. But if the best logic you can come up with is to whine “grow up”, then perhaps you need to examine your stance a mite more carefully.

  21. There is a possibility I may end up going to San Diego next year under a press pass.

    If I have to stand in multi-hour line ups in order to cover something, than fuck it, I ain’t going to cover it.

  22. There is a possibility I may end up going to San Diego next year under a press pass.

    If I have to stand in multi-hour line ups in order to cover something, than fuck it, I ain’t going to cover it.

  23. Robert Morales says:

    Nat, it’s the notion of “fun” when you’re a working member of the non-fan press that shows me you’re really clueless as to what the job is about. When you’re a reporter, you’re in an alternate universe of experience from the average convention goer – whether fans are having “fun” isn’t a reasonable concern: you’re expected to go to things you’ve no personal interest in, you’re expected to find those aspects of the con that will translate to your target audience, and what might be news to the average comics fan and what might be news to you are more likely than not two distinct things. It’s never predetermined what will be news at huge events, so you have to keep moving, and to do your job access is everything. Not “additional” access, but what is mutually agreed upon between the convention and the press as adequate access.

    If the con can’t allow reporters to move freely from event to event, if that freedom hurts the con’s business, it shouldn’t allow as many of them in as it does. It’s totally the convention’s call. However, this “special treatment” bullshit makes it seem as if the press is getting over on the con, or denying fans any pleasure. It’s not a “please the press” vs. “please the fans” matter at all.

  24. “Nat, it’s the notion of “fun” when you’re a working member of the non-fan press that shows me you’re really clueless as to what the job is about.”

    Well, Robert, if your reading-comprehension or understanding of the situation is that poor, then that is your problem. It is neither true that all the press credentials at the con are for working members of the non-fan press, nor is it true that I claimed they were. What is true is that some of the people who have press badges are indeed there to have fun. Believe me, I’ve talked to some of those folks. I’ve not done the polling to show that that “some” is enough to be “many”.

    “whether fans are having “fun” isn’t a reasonable concern:”

    It may not be a reasonable concern to the reporter. It is, however, a reasonable concerns for the fan, and for the convention. If you want to fling about obscenities and calls to “grow up” because someone dared express concern for someone besides journalists, however, you may want to put some more thought into the issue and gain a bit of perspective.

    “It’s not a “please the press” vs. “please the fans” matter at all.”

    I don’t know if you’ve followed the discussion here, but yes, it is that sort of a matter. What some journalists have been calling for is for areas of these crowded rooms to be set aside for press, so that they don’t have to stand in line for a long time to get in on a talk that is going to be filled to capacity. The panels for which this is an issue are the ones where there are fans standing in line to get in, and not all will make it. What the journalists are asking for is a privileged level of access that will ensure that some of them get in… and the cost of some fans who have been waiting in line getting in. (Nothing I’ve seen will increase the overall capacity available in the room, and presumably the convention has already been working these rooms as close to capacity as it is.)

    Despite what you seem to believe, I am not unaware of the desires and concerns of those with press badges. I just don’t see that as the only desires and concerns of value.

  25. John Tebbel says:

    I’m in the middle of about a dozen pieces on various things at San Diego, all I could squeeze in. See them over at ComicMix or pass ‘em by. If they have no intrinsic value, I’m a blue-nosed gopher and you can minus my name in your search box. After I’m done I might opine on how comics’ self-hatred spills over at San Diego onto lots of people who deserve a better shake.

  26. “Well, Robert, if your reading-comprehension or understanding of the situation is that poor, then that is your problem.”

    See, no snarkness there, just someone who knows so much more then you.

  27. The Beat says:

    Well, actually, Nat, I personally don’t want a special press area — that already exists. I would just like a special press PASS so I don’t have to spend 60-90 minutes of my schedule PER DAY standing in the broiling sun so I can do the job I am paid. I can sit with whoever, and if a room is too full I get that.

    I understand your disparagement of entitlement, and I am way too tired to even get into it now, but that part at least you have wrong.

  28. Russell says:

    As a member of the media who’s covered Wizard World Chicago for both a daily newspaper and CBR in the past, I’ve faced this situation at that con — Kevin Smith’s panels come to mind.

    It should be celebrated that the con has gotten so popular that it’s flooded with media that want to cover the event, and not just bloggers or online industry webzines but real-live media. And the media serves a purpose at such an event by telling people who couldn’t make it what happened. By, you know, reporting the news. And it’s hard to do that if you’re not in the room. But it’s also unfair to fans if 100 reporters take up seats in a 200-seat panel.

    There can be a distinction between the working press and people who aren’t — and it can be accomplished by requiring the journalist applying for the pass to prove they have an actual assignment. Concert promoters and sports teams do this for reporters and photographers. It weeds out media pros who aren’t actually covering the con as well as people who might claim to be media but aren’t. It’s selective, sure, but that’s the entertainment business. Many times I’ve wanted a photo pass to shoot a rock concert (I used to do that freelance) but have been told I can’t because the outlet I was representing didn’t cut the mustard. And that’s life.

    There are other ways around this, too. For example, establish a media pool for press coverage, like the Pentagon and White House do. That is, send in 10 reporters (not 100) to an event and they can share their reportage with other outlets.

    Or, video the panels on closed circuit TV feeds that air in special press rooms, so the reporters can sit in that room and watch the live action. They can’t ask questions, but typically only fans ask questions at panels anyway.

    There are plenty of real-world examples of how to get around this problem. But the media attention on the con is so new and so explosive, it may just take time to work it out.

  29. I think the press issue has enough problems to be re-evaluated. It seems to me that many folks get press passes as a cheap way to get in. I was in the press room all four days working on articles, and I sure didn’t see 3000 press reps in the room we were assigned. It was mostly empty.

    Mind you, the press pass doesn’t provide much. There really is a problem with many “reporters” acting like fans. I’m still working on the load of articles we’ve covered during the Comic-Con and our team posted about 30 stories while the convention was going on. I’d like other media reps to be asked about their past resumes next year, when they apply for press passes.

    Mind you, we have a reputation to built so, having fun at the convention was not a priority. For me, this convention was all work, inside the halls and outside.

    So yeah, some of the press does real work. Special access would have been useful, but personally, much of the panels were not very newsworthy in my opinion. Real news and “promotions” are still indistinguishable in this industry.

    About the issue of a allowing a fan or a reporter to seat in a room, more experienced events organizers have figured out a long time ago that most media will get your message spread wide across further than one fan being satisfied. But then, one must never forget that the media is not there to spread the message of the vendor. It’s there to be objective and cover newsworthy material. If it’s not newsworthy, it should not be covered. What is newsworthy is not decided by exhibitors or even organizers.

  30. “I personally don’t want a special press area [...] but that part at least you have wrong. ”

    I don’t think I said anything about what you specifically were asking for, Heidi. I was addressing the things actually stated in the piece, where you’re quoting folks saying things like “The con may need to consider setting aside a space in each panel room for the media.”

    “I would just like a special press PASS so I don’t have to spend 60-90 minutes of my schedule PER DAY standing in the broiling sun so I can do the job I am paid. I can sit with whoever, and if a room is too full I get that.”

    I don’t know of any panels where one had to spend time standing in line if the room was not too full; if it’s not too full, you can show up a minute before the event and get a seat. Possibly I missed some major change in procedure, as I was not trying to go to too many panels this year. Of course, it may be hard to predict when the room is going to be too full ahead of time, but that’s a problem for everyone — not just the people who are being paid to be there, but also the people who are paying to be there.

  31. Nat, do you agree, yes or no, that there should always be space or special access provided for the media in such events/panels, or do you think that the fact that they got in for free makes them less “important” than paying guests?

  32. It sounds like you’re setting up a false comparison, as though unless they get special access, they are treated as less important. (Or “important”, as you choose to quote it, although it doesn’t seem to be quoting anything relevant in this discussion.)

    Since there is already “studio executive” space being set aside in the big rooms, I would have no problem if the folks running the panel were able to indicate the people the seats were for, thus allowing them the opportunity to make certain that a certain number of people the panel felt were important to have -press or otherwise- got seats (assuming this could be done without placing undue strain on CCI resources.)

  33. The Beat says:

    >>>I don’t know of any panels where one had to spend time standing in line if the room was not too full; if it’s not too full, you can show up a minute before the event and get a seat.

    Dude, you have obviously never been to Hall H.

  34. actually ended up with a press pass this year at the last minute, since I agreed to do daily reports for Comics Should be Good. I didn’t need it, but figured it would get me a little more access than the regular badge, so I picked it up. In the end, all it got me was recognition from a couple of people I talked to, who said, “Oh, Comic Book Resources!” There was (apparently — I never got far enough forward to see it) a press corral for photographers in Hall H, but the one time I was there, the the row of chairs was so packed that I didn’t want to mess with getting out and back in.

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