The keyboard is a powerful tool that’s often used to spread rumour, supposition and in some cases downright bullshit
(Re)views, (pre)views and editorial independence…
A couple of days ago I discussed the upcoming Tamiya 1:48 F-14 Tomcat, its features and what modellers can expect from the package when it arrives in a few months times. I was delighted to see that the post generated plenty of discussion on here, Facebook and on the various forums that I frequent. The conversations were certainly robust and that was really what I wanted to see: modellers talking frankly about their passions and though many agreed with my stance, that was most definitely not what I was hoping for, disagreement being every bit as welcome as points that jived with those written by my hand.
And then came this in response to a link referencing this Blog. The name of the poster has been covered to maintain his anonymity:
Now, as you can imagine, impugning my professional reputation in this way is not that great – to put it mildly – so I thought I would write a few words on here that dispel a few myths (although I appreciate that if you are the sort of person who has made their mind up to believe this crap, nothing I write here will change your opinion).
Firstly, the opinions that I express on here are nothing at all to do with my professional role at ADH and as such, everything that I deal with in terms of news, views, builds and links, are all my personal items and interests. But let’s assume for a second that that’s a given and look at what was written in his comment and break it down. What the guy is saying is that because I work for a commercial company that carries paid advertising in its magazines, everything that I write within the magazine in my care is always biased, because I have to ensure that the kits and advertising keep coming our way. And by saying that about me, he is by association, accusing everyone else in the industry of behaving in the same way.
I’ll let that sink in.
Nothing that I write – or indeed, anyone else in my position, writes – can be trusted because it is driven by financial gain and the need to ensure a constant revenue stream.We tell lies, are happy to do so and don’t care about the readers, just so long as the money keeps rolling in. We live in the shadows of the hobby, sub-political lowlife scum that can’t be trusted to tell you, dear reader, how best to spend your money on your hobby.
So the myth that we are less than honest perpetuates, driven by those with axes to grind and no actual knowledge of how magazines work, editors create, or authors provide. Enough is enough; it’s time to fight back and try as hard as possible to check this nonsense and add a little balance to the debate.
Let’s tackle some of these points head on. The money. Of course it’s important that companies such as the one I work for generate income, without it we would not be able to continue to create product that you can enjoy, but that doesn’t mean that we are not independent when it comes to the kits that we look at – of course we are! Over the years I’ve been highly critical of kits that I’ve built, both for work and for my previous employers, Traplet Publications. And I’m not alone; many of the wonderful editors and authors that I have been fortunate to work with, have been equally honest in their appraisals – even when those kits are supplied by advertisers. Not once – and I’ll repeat that – not once, has a company, or one of my bosses, asked me to temper a review and not once have I asked an author to do the same. And I’m sure, that neither have my colleagues.
But why would we?
Most of the time we are highly visible online and in person. Imagine that I’d lied about a kit to maintain advertising and then you decided to buy it and found out that it was crap. Where would that a) leave my reputation, b) the reputation of the magazine (and by association, ADH) and c) my safety the next time that that person bumped into me at one of the many shows that I attend! I would no doubt be torn a new one and my standing in the hobby would fly out the window within five seconds, never to return. It would not be pretty. It’s not as though I hide behind a cloak of secrecy either; everything that I publish has my name on it, my picture is on my Facebook page and almost everyone knows me at the shows I attend. Now, if I had a screen name and stayed at home…
When it comes to reviews, we tell it as we see it, nothing more, nothing less. If we build a kit and there are problems, those problems are discussed – but we have to build the kit to do that. And we build kits, lots and lots of kits (in my case, around 25 a year) so we have a very good knowledge of how they go together, the materials used to create them and the materials needed to finish each one. These builds form the basis of the reviews, longer features in which we can discuss the fine points of each kit, construction, detail, fit and features. And in them we tell the truth, good and bad.
Previews are different; these are shorter appraisals are there to allow us to give a kit some of the limelight that it may not get from a longer feature. Often we are criticised for not looking at these kits in detail, simply showing the readers the contents, and then discussing such mundane features as detail, moulding quality and decals. Yep, guilty as charged. But there is good reason for this as well: space and time. Given the amount of kits that an average magazine gets, it would be impossible to find a team that could assess them all in detail and then find the space to publish the results. If we were to allocate a couple of thousand words to every kit that we get, we would not have space to feature the actual builds and would have no one to build them. If there are problems, we have no way of seeing them at this stage, so we assume that modellers will be able to read around the kit and find other portals for information on which they can base a purchase and subsequent build.
So that’s why we have short previews and longer reviews.
And so we come to the final line of the posting, the correspondent having more respect if I had not said anything. Well…Isn’t it my job to say something?! After all, I’m a full-time journalist that is paid to have an opinion on the hobby. That might not always line up with yours (and that’s perfectly fine), but I must have one anyway, otherwise I’m not really doing my job! But perhaps those that feel that modellers such as I should keep quiet, should step away from the computer once in a while and try and understand the bigger picture. The keyboard is a powerful tool that’s often used to spread rumour, supposition and in some cases downright bullshit that can be really damaging if left unchecked. And that’s where those that want to be more even-handed (and there are plenty of us about) come in; have an opinion by all means, that’s how it should be, but when your opinion becomes your “fact” and your facts hint at darker, more underhand motives, expect to be challenged by those who may be somewhat more circumspect and understanding.
See you next time!