The other day Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool broke the news that DC Comics were moving from New York, their home since their inception, to Burbank in California on America’s west coast. That’s a pretty big bit of news as it means DC Comics are essentially no longer focused on creating comics, but product for it’s parent company Warner Brothers, not to mention it potentially effects the jobs of an awful lot of people.
You’d think that Johnston would be getting questions from creators, staff and users of his website, plus fans across the world about the possible effects of this, but no, instead his forums are full of people attacking him for being in ‘bad taste’ for breaking the story, or essentially trying to get hits for his site, which he does, but this wasn’t clickbait, but an actual really major news story. A follow up article by Johnston points out the possible repercussions of the move, and again, he’s attacked on his forum by people being exceptionally up their own arses because he’s dared break the line and talk about a news story as a journalist would do in any other sector.
The problem people seem to have isn’t that Johnston broke the story; he’s entirely within his right to do so, but that he broke the cosy little relationship that the likes of DC Comics have with the (and I use this term very loosely) the world of comics journalism. As the news filtered out through the official sources, it was just clearly a case of sites parroting official DC press releases and passing it off as ‘news’ or even worse ‘journalism’. Printing press releases without question isn’t journalism, it’s just a form of churnalism that everyone does, but for some reason comics seem to be riddled more with this than most other industries as there’s little or no original journalism in comics.
Why is this? Well, there’s a simple reason. The overwhelming majority of people working in ”comics journalism’ are eyeing a job further up the food chain, so they don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to piss off a potential future employer. Making a ‘bad name’ for yourself at a stage when you’re working for a minimal wage, or in the case of bloggers, normally nothing, means you won’t get the editors job, or the writing job, or even that presenting job on a TV channel talking about comics. Why are people on froums attacking Johnston? Because some harbour the idea they might get a job working for DC or Marvel someday. Some are just going with the consensus because after all, why rock the boat?
I’m not saying Johnston is a serious investigative reporter: he’s not and at times he panders to the mainstream as much as any other example but he does something nobody else does in the nepotistic world of comics ‘journalism’ in that he’s not scared to put people’s noses out of joint because he wants to be a journalist (of sorts) rather than try to blag his way to a comfy job with one of the major publishers.
Journalism should be about trying to uncover or find the truth, or tell a story that needs to be told rather than just blandly report the news, or just act as a free marketing tool for giant publishing companies presenting advertorial as articles and news. It doesn’t need to be this way and to be fair, I’m painting a darker picture than it is, as there’s some good criticism and journalism at the like of The Comics Journal, and elsewhere, but wading through the comics sites and blogs that are everywhere online is like wading through an Olympic swimming pool full of straw trying to find a penny.