Behind Closed Doors

Recently, Val D’Orazio asked a lot of comics pros the following question:

“Do you think the comic book industry, and its principal players, should be subject to the sort of public scrutiny and (at times) gossip that others in the entertainment field are subject to?”

I haven’t been among the respondents, because I am not important, and no one cares what I think.

But I’m going to tell you anyway.

I think it’s a slanted question, because it takes for granted that “the sort of public scrutiny and (at times) gossip that others in the entertainment industry are subject to” is appropriate.

I don’t.

Let me make something clear: I’m not supporting cloak-and-dagger secrecy here. I believe in accountability—public accountability where circumstances warrant. In fact, I agree, in principle, with most of the commentators, who discussed the importance of accountability and transparency in matters like creative responsibility, professional decorum, and business relations. In fact, I think most of those issues—and particularly those that involve exploitation and abuse, financial or otherwise—should probably get more coverage.

But that wasn’t the question. The question was,

“Do you think the comic book industry, and its principal players, should be subject to the sort of public scrutiny and (at times) gossip that others in the entertainment field are subject to?”

And to that, my answer is,

Absolutely not.

As far as I’m concerned, the parts of comics professionals lives that the public—and the industry at large—have any right to know about begin and end with the comics industry.

But that’s not as simple as it sounds, because comic people tend to socialize with, well, other comics people. We talk together. We drink together. We date each other. We embarrass ourselves in front of each other. And the lines between our personal and professional lives blur—which makes the answer to Val’s original question a hell of a lot more complicated. We can draw lines, sure—whom you date, for example, should be nobody’s business but your own—but there will always be exceptions: what about the editor who awards a competitive gig to the artist he’s involved with, or the couple whose divorce also means the dissolution of a creative team?

And so, to me, it comes down to a question of integrity and judgment.

If I thought any comics bloggers or journalists read this column, I would offer them the following challenge:

When you are deciding whether to report on a rumor or news item centering around a person or people (not, say, the release of a book, even if there are creator names attached to it), ask yourselves two questions:

What benefit would publicizing this item provide?
and
What harm could it do?

What guides this decision shouldn’t be blog hits, or sensationalism, or laziness. It should be journalistic ethics, because when you are writing in your official capacity—even if it’s just at a personal blog—you are writing in the role of a journalist, and the weight you give the answers to those questions defines what is gossip, and what is news. And only one of those has a place in the public eye.

Discuss this column here.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Pingback by Comics, Journalism, and Ethics « The Wright Opinion on June 22, 2009 9:49 pm

    [...] I read my esteemed coworker, Rachel Edidin’s, response. I think she’s right on about a lot of it, but I also think there’s an element many are [...]

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