This week I had the dubious honour of being the original source of a Star Wars news story. As you no doubt have heard by now, Ian McDiarmid stated in an interview with XGN.nl that he wouldn’t be playing Palpatine in Rogue One. Prosheshy, a fan of the Dutch fansite I write for, Star Wars Awakens, pointed this out to me. And thus a week old blog came to be the first site to post the story. Since, this ordeal has gained me some insider insight as to how a story makes its way around the internet.
My first order of business was notifying a few news sites I like. However, they all promptly ignored me. Maybe they didn’t think an actor’s absence was big news, maybe they didn’t take me seriously due to this blog only just starting out. Whatever the case, they had a story and didn’t roll with it, their loss.
The clock struck 1AM, so I just put a link up on Reddit and called it a night. Which, for my blog views, turned out to be a winning move. In fact, even after the name Hound’s Tooth started appearing on many major news channels, the views from Reddit still outnumber the clicks I’ve gotten from other places 500:1. So for the rant that is coming next, know that I’m not bitter about any missed views or anything. I just weep for the state of journalism.
14 hours after being posted on Reddit, Star Wars News Net got wind of the story and posted it, bringing it to the attention of all the other news sites. SWNN, by the way, were total gentlemen about it. They properly credited both me for finding it, and XGN for the interview.
Sadly, aside from Dork Side of the Force, they were the only ones.
Note: If you find any other sites who credited properly, please let me know! I’d like to give them a shout-out for being swell.
All the other sites, however… Yeesh.
There were a few who just credited XGN. Fair enough. Even though they didn’t have any idea what kind of story they had on their hands, they were still a much more vital part of the news breaking than I ever was.
Then there were those who didn’t credit at all. Not a very nice decision I can get behind, but at least it’s a deliberate decision.
What baffled me most, were the sites that just had completely wrong information. Some
straight up credited SWNN, not taking the two seconds it would have required to fully read their article and see where they got their news from. Others just credited me without paying heed to the origin of the video. The biggest laugh, however, I got from people claiming I was the one who performed the interview. Obviously, they’ve read my original story… And just failed at basic reading comprehension.
Now, on a single case basis, this is just a collection of simple misreading and other assorted clerical errors. However, these are the same sites we rely on for our pop culture news every day. And what happened to this story is by no means an exception. Seeing as I’ve never been this close to a source before, I can’t comment on how on-point most sites’ crediting is usually. However, I do have examples of some worse errors and blatant misdirection, all for the purposes of that coveted click.
In the lead-up to the release of Empire magazine’s Rogue One-themed issue, several sites made a newspost for each and every variant cover that was released. Even worse, just before it hit, I’ve seen headlines that read “Tons of new Rogue One images released!”. These linked to articles that basically read as “Coming soon, once we rip the images out of the Empire mag”.
Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley appeared on the My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast. Not in any official capacity, but the hosts did manage to sneak in a few Episode VIII questions, including one about the movie’s title. Daisy said that there was a title at one point, and she knew it, but “it’s changed and I imagine we won’t know it for a long while”; making it very clear that the decision of what and when to name Episode VIII is above her considerable paygrade. Cue multiple sites making headlines with “No Episode VIII title this year!”
And perhaps the most egregious one: Earlier this month, Birth.Movies.Death. reported Donald Glover as the rumoured frontrunner for the role of Lando in the upcoming Han Solo movie. However, BMD’s Devin Faraci made clear that there’s probably not even an offer on the table yet. Cue multiple sites making headlines with “Donald Glover cast as young Lando Calrissian!”
All in all, this month has been an eye-opener for me. It’s taught me that if you see an intriguing headline, you’d better find the original source (even if some websites make it hard for you), or you’ll end up with clickbait and half-truths.
Do better, Star Wars fandom.