Funnybook Babylon

July 30, 2008

Text Messaging Is Destroying the Con Report as We Know It

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , — Chris Eckert @ 1:39 am

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Web 2.0 juggernaut as much as the next fellow, and I don’t want to go all Neil Postman/Luddite on everyone but:

The ready access to your text messages, twitters, mobile liveblogging and everything else has deleteriously affected convention reporting. Maybe I’m yearning for a bygone era that never existed, but it’s nearly a week later, and most of the big news sites still have little besides hastily cobbled together “liveblogs” from the San Diego Comicon floor, mixed with a few press-release type interviews. Many intriguing panels, like a creator spotlights on Geoff Johns and Keith Giffen or panels dedicated to imprints like DC’s Minx have apparently been passed over completely. The panels that have been covered have only been given cursory treatment, with on-the-fly reportage lacking context or any apparent copy editing. If congoers did any actual old-fashioned reporting, the type where you take notes and then compose a report that is fact-checked and carefully written, I have yet to see them.

I want to look at one particular panel report by CBR’s Hannibal Tabu and dissect it as an example of how shoddy most of this “reporting” is. I’d feel bad about singling out Tabu for abuse, but after following his CBR bio’s link to his MySpace blog I see that he’s boasting that

I’m often assigned “live” panels — as the panel is happening, I’m typing like a crazy bastard and posting the report of what’s happening just a bit slower than real time. Doing this is not easy. I was one of the first people doing it for CBR, as well as being one of the most accurate, most entertaining and most widely read. So despite the fact that I’m something of a prima donna where lodgings are concerned, I’m worth chasing. How much? So much that I reported on ten panels in four days (look for “CCI:” in the title), nine of which were live reports and very barely edited afterwards. There may be one or two typos still lurking, but they’re pretty clean.

Emphasis mine, obviously. I’m not denying that it’s difficult, but let’s look at this entertaining, accurate and ‘clean’ con report on one of the bigger panels of the weekend, DC’s con-ending DC Nation panel where they announced Neil Gaiman’s upcoming two issue run on Batman:

Tabu starts off describing editor Ian Sattler’s clothing choices and dwelling on Dan Didio’s dissing of Fringe , apparently a forthcoming FOX television series. This isn’t explained in the recap, despite spending considerable time describing the banter about Fringe . Once the actual panel begins, Tabu reports that:

Kevin Smith with a new Batman mini (with two completed scripts in already with a secret artist and covers by Andy Kubert).

A secret artist? Tabu himself reported on the Friday panel where they announced Batman: Cacophony as a mini-series written by Smith and drawn by Walt Flanagan. If you listen to the recording of the panel provided by DC, you’ll hear Walt Flanagan re-confirmed as artist about nine and a half minutes in.

Tabu also flubs the spelling of Cacophony villain “Onomotopoeia”, which to be fair is a difficult word to spell. There were even jokes made by the panel about the difficulty of spelling “onomatopoeia” and a fan admitted she couldn’t spell it. The difference between that fan and Tabu? The fan is not being paid to recap the panel, nor did the fan have five days to use a spell-checker. This is a minor thing, as is his misuse of “stewart” to describe Geoff Johns’s stewardship of DC franchise characters, but Tabu is the one who was inviting scrutiny, and drops the following in this week’s Buy Pile review column:

Dear “Project Superpowers” #5, when you said “sited in Amsterdam,” what you meant was “sighted in Amsterdam,” as they didn’t erect a location there. Please hire copy editors. Oh, and please be less boring. K, thx, bye.

Putting aside Tabu’s typically glib and uninformative review style, this is pretty funny coming from him today. But back to the panel recap:

DiDio called up a young woman in a Supergirl costume to stand close to the mic (she was hot) and talk about the book’s developments). But she stopped reading the title ten months ago, and proposed to act out her idea of what should have happened. “New creative team, she won’t be a slut, the book won’t suck,” Idelson said of the title in October.

Okay, this has some tortured grammar and a hanging parenthesis, along with Tabu-report-staple about reporting on the physical attractiveness of female fans and panelists. But more importantly: “Supergirl” delivered what would’ve been the sickest burn of the con had there not been a guy claiming that reading Countdown was worse than contracting HIV earlier in the weekend. It’s hard to top that.

After “Supergirl” left, Didio attempted to move on before someone else on the panel suggests that they ought to “tell her why she should start [reading Supergirl] again in October. This elicits Idelson’s “she won’t be a slut, the book won’t suck” promise. This is a pretty shitty thing to say about the work of everyone else who has worked on the book for the past few years, especially since Idelson himself has been editing the title since issue #21, so he’s implicitly claiming (inaccurately) that he’s captained a lousy book about “a slut” for nearly a year. Stay classy, DC!

More Tabu:

Apparently “Battle for The Cowl” wasn’t supposed to be on screen regarding the Batman titles, and that was discussed. “So we have ‘Battle for the Cowl … oh sh**!” DiDio said. Wayne put the kibosh for a video which will be shown.

This isn’t a very helpful news item. What is “Battle for the Cowl”? (a post-Batman: R.I.P. storyline teased with an image on Friday’s DCU Panel) Why wasn’t it supposed to be on the screen? (Good question, it wasn’t even shown on Sunday, only on Friday apparently) What was discussed? (Nothing of note) How and why did Wayne put “the kibosh for on” a video? Just a lot of unclear, needless verbiage that doesn’t actually inform the reader of anything. The hits continue:

Ron Raymond will be a Black Lantern, Johns confirmed.

What are Black Lanterns? They’re apparently the villains in the upcoming Green Lantern event “Blackest Night”, and they’re basically zombie with power rings. DC panels were filled all weekend with jokes about how every single dead character, from Thomas & Martha Wayne to the Martian Manhunter would come back a “Black Lantern”. A fan asked about Ronnie Raymond (the original Firestorm) and given the laughter from the panel, this was yet another joke, no “confirmation” of anything. Johns did say that Jason Rusch, the current Firestorm currently appearing in Justice League of America, would play a role in “Blackest Night”, but apparently this was not deemed newsworthy.

Wayne got caught not listening to a question about trades and said, “Supergirl left, I have to go right now.”

Wayne made this joke, but he also answered the fan’s question about the Tiny Titans collection. The fan hoped it’d get released before its announced January 2009 date, as it would make a great Christmas present. Wayne claimed DC was “too busy printing Watchmen” to print anything else, which is a nonsense answer but whatever. Tabu also neglected to note that Wayne announced more reprint projects such as hardcover collections of Jack Kirby’s The Demon and The Losers, but actual news like that pales in importance to another reference to Supergirl, I guess. (She was hot.)

DiDio believes that Stracynski on “Brave and the Bold” will be as effective as his work with “The Twelve” and the Squadron Supreme.

Writer J. Michael Straczynski has a tricky name; no doubt that’s why most of his fans refer to him as JMS. But he’s also been an A-list comics creator for the better part of a decade now, and a genre television writer for a decade before that, so you’d figure someone at CBR could check his name. Beyond that error, Tabu helpfully identifies who made this statement about JMS (something many of the panel recaps across the board are terrible at doing), but he completely divorces this statement from its context. Contextually you can infer that JMS formerly wrote The Twelve and Squadron Supreme, and that he will soon take over Brave & the Bold. But stating that “A writer wrote Books A and B and I liked those, therefore I will like his work on Book C” is numbingly obvious, and Didio actually made a good point. I want to reward Didio for making good points, so:

A fan asked why DC thinks they could bring back the largely unmourned Archie/Impact characters back and have anyone care about them after their last failed relaunch. Didio has two responses: first, that JMS has had success taking “cipher” characters at Marvel (Squadron Supreme, the Golden Age D-listers that make up The Twelve) and breathing new life into them. He also points out that there was no easy entry-point into the “Impact” line back in 1991, which was relaunched with over a half dozen monthly titles. This time around, the entire “relaunch” is contained within a single monthly title. I’m still not convinced this is a project anyone needs, but Didio makes a cogent point that no one seems interested in relating.

“I’d rather be handed ‘Doom Patrol’ or ‘The Outsiders,'” when asked for a flipside of “Stan Lee Recreates The DC Universe.”

Hey, speaking of baffling unattributed quotations! Someone asked Geoff Johns about the idea of him or Grant Morrison reimagining Marvel properties in the style of Just Imagine… Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe. The diplomatic answer to that question involved exclusive contracts, with Johns explaining he’d rather work on existing DC properties. It’s a silly question and a pat answer, but Tabu’s recap of it turns it into confusing nonsense.

“Greg wanted me to have the Spectre DOOT DOOT Doctor Light,” Tan said. “You’ve really gotta check that scene.”

Okay, to be fair this is a direct quote and even after listening to the panel I have no idea what this is meant to mean. Is he supposed to get raped?

Tabu appears to become listless as the panel continues, choosing to ignore a number of questions with non-committal or non-news answers, but also chooses not to report on Didio and Wayne’s confirmation that a collection of Silver Age stories that have inspired Grant Morrison’s Batman run is “in the works”. (Not sure what these stories are? Check out David’s Batman Annotations!) I know we’re a bunch of Morrison fanboys here, but this seems like news, doesn’t it? From there, it’s clear the panel is wrapping up, as we get this mess of a closer:

In the video was seen a coffin with a bat signal ascending from lower right to center screen, as a scroll at the top of the screen read “Whatever happened to the caped crusader.” Then text came on the scree, “Neil Gaimnan. Andy Kubert. January 2009.”

Jeeeeezus. Here, let me play copy editor!

In the video was seen The video showed a coffin with a bat signal Bat-Symbol on it ascending from lower right to the center of the screen, as a scroll at the top of the screen reads “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader.?” Then text came on the screen that read “Neil Gaimnan Gaiman. Andy Kubert. January 2009.”

The syntax was a little muddled, but at least it employs consistent grammar, tense, punctuation and the correct spelling of the superstar writer’s name now. Is that so hard?

I know this is a lot of nitpicking and ball-breaking, but CBR is a professional news organization, and Hannibal Tabu is a professional journalist. Liveblogging is on-the-fly, but so is traditional note-taking, the only difference is that people take the time to work those notes into a coherent report. That’s the key step that seems to be missing here; someone is supposed to be nitpicking within the organization, not a fan reading your site nearly a week later.

And beyond all the other minor things (like misidentifying new Green Arrow/Black Canary writer Andrew Kreisberg as “Andrew Christberg” and claiming he’ll be writing Green Arrow, or stating James Robinson will be “taking over” Justice League of America when he will actually be launching a separate book called The Justice League), these con reports are unfortunately the closest thing the comic book industry has to an “official record”. Tabu’s recap of a Marvel panel got blurbed in Dirk Deppey’s Journalista and makes Quesada sound like a real jerk:

“A fan asked for more scientifically minded female characters. “Smart chicks in leather, huh?” Quesada asked. “Somebody write that down.”

The Newsarama recap doesn’t explain this much better, but makes it sound like a completely different exchange:

The first question concerned a fan who wanted to see more “scheming” female villains rather than highly-powered ones. Quesada seemed to mostly agree with the fans thoughts, though a bit confused by the question.

I wasn’t there, and have no clue what Quesada or the fan actually said, but I’m inclined to believe that Quesada did not automatically jump to the conclusion that women in science are “smart chicks in leather” with no prompting, if in fact he even said that.

I know I’m harping on this, but it’s clear that the “real” journalists at The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly are only there to cover movies and video games. And no, no one’s life will be significantly impacted if they don’t get a 100% accurate recap of what a bunch of superhero comic creators announce at a panel. But a lot of people (myself included) would like to know. And it’s a shame that figuring out what was actually said turns into a confusing trek through three news sites, two blogs, a podcast and a series of Twitters like it’s some new alternate reality game. Liveblogging is great, but it’s not enough.

It seems like none of the “professional” sites like Newsarama or CBR are that interested in providing this — and don’t misunderstand, I’m just picking on Tabu because he painted a target on his back, not because he’s the only problem — and there are far too few independent fans-slash-bloggers who take the time to write up thoughtful reports. I suppose I could try to rally a bunch of smaller bloggers into a coordinated smart mob of reports at the next convention, and I actually mulled this over during last weekend’s con but: you guys are getting paid to do this. Is such an undertaking necessary? Can’t I just expect something approximating professionalism from professionals?


  1. Good article. Questions have to be asked as to the qualifications of the ‘journalists’ for most of these things other than being a fan of the medium. When you start getting paid to write something like this the quality should be above and beyond your generic blog rant.

    Comment by Dominic Davies — August 1, 2008 @ 4:50 am

  2. After seeing some of the stuff this year, compared to my own experiences AT some of those panels, I’m thinking I may just take my own damn notes and see how different they are from the people getting paid for it. It’s not like these things are a rapid-fire blitzkrieg of questions and answers; you can take the time to look at what you wrote while a fan walks away from the mic/the usual “Okay so I love you guys and all but…” intro people give.

    Comment by Syrg — August 1, 2008 @ 5:10 am

  3. Hannibal Tabu is batshit crazy and a terrible writer besides. It’s baffling that anyone actually pays him.

    Comment by Aaron Poehler — August 1, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

  4. I love it. Excellent ball-breaking.

    Comment by Brad Bice — August 1, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  5. I want to print this blog out and make sweet love to it. ;)

    In all seriousness, the comic sites can only have so many staff writers. Not all of them can attend every convention. So, sometimes a call goes out for people willing to do some work covering a few panels. I don’t know what candidates have to show to demonstrate they can hack it, though.

    With big conventions, there is a rush to be the first site to get coverage up of important panels. The pay rate is on a scale that reflects when you send it in. I think that helps lead to more typos and confusion in the writing sometimes. The other thing is that the panels can be fast moving at times that don’t really give you a chance to type everything up verbatim.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 1, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

  6. Khux: The Black Panel this year was very fast-moving, but I still walked away with 3500 words of notes and quotes over the course of 90 minutes. I got almost every question, missing maybe three due to a dead laptop battery 70 minutes in, and took enough notes that I can easily reconstruct answers, if not quotes.

    It isn’t that hard. Breaking stories is all well and good, but I’d think that accuracy in reporting should be higher on the list.

    Comment by david brothers — August 1, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

  7. D-Bro, K-Hux, I don’t even mind more rushed initial drafts that get edited, but Tabu especially has a knack for reporting everything that doesn’t matter and ignoring all the stuff that does. If you just keep a reasonable eye on the industry, then it’s easy to figure out what is an announcement and what isn’t, and what is valuable discourse and what isn’t. While I love panel liveblogs for the Big Two, I’m stymied as to

    A) Why they don’t just broadcast the panels over the internet, they could make a killing on advertising


    B) Why time constraints prevent livebloggers from communicating accurate information. And, I mean, I understand having to make do if it was, like, the West Oklahoma Fan Expo or some shit, but this is one of the two major news sites about this subject reporting on panels filled with major announcements at the biggest comics convention in the world and not being able to have accurate recaps of those panels almost a week later.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — August 1, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  8. I mean you actually have singled Tabu out, and I didn’t check the bylines for all the CBR SDCC coverage I read, but was I think particularly struck by the sheer ineptitude of the writing on the panel where Neil Gaiman was announced on Batman: it took a few hours and some parsing through Newsarama to sort it, to actually discover what this news was, starting from a position of basically being misled. I do believe, as CBRs primary competitor, and from what I’m told from others trying to blog cons that Newsarama is often given inside scoops so as to have their pieces polished and up proper well before anyone else, though. So that does, perhaps somewhat, mitigate the shockingly awful (I am actively appalled if Hannibal is really paid for this – really?!) and inscrutable reportage, insofar as time is the pressing issue.

    As I say, you have singled him out, but the writing – any writing I read from CBR on SDCC – was atrocious.

    Comment by Duncan — August 1, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  9. D00gz & Hermanos (I’m a Twitter addict, can ya tell): I’m not saying it excuses Tabu’s particular screw ups. But the column finishes off with questioning the journalistic quality of con coverage overall. The recruited writers and time constraints was meant to address that.

    And Hermanos? I’ve been to two Black Panels moderated by Michael Davis before. He spends so much time between questions cracking wise in ways that aren’t news and don’t always translate well into a write-up that I know he had to give you some degree of breathing room that isn’t always found at a “major” DC or Marvel panel. ;) He does make sure the panel is a lot of fun.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 1, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

  10. I think that our expectations (as fans) contribute to the problem. We want reports that are comprehensive, accurate, and instantaneous. Maybe we should settle for two out of the three.

    Comment by Jamaal — August 2, 2008 @ 7:43 am

  11. David U: While DC put up podcasts of all(?) their panels at their main site, (I haven’t been able to find any Marvel ones and didn’t look for things like the black creators panel) I think the following sound clip from the Final Crisis Management panel is an argument for filming them as well. Dan Didio has just passed the mike to Orion of the New Gods.

    Comment by Daniel — August 2, 2008 @ 8:02 am

  12. Jamaal: yeah, I think that we have to settle for two out of three, unfortunately. I may be biased, but I think when Matt Brady, himself, is covering a panel, the resulting article normally scores three out of three. Unfortunately, when I used to do panels, I only really had a shot at the first two.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 2, 2008 @ 10:19 am

  13. I think an obvious compromise would be to do a very barebones liveblog, with major announcements and simple declarative sentences. That would satisfy everyone who wants news NOW, and most of the major Big Two announcements are accompanied by a prepared press release/interview within an hour or two anyway.

    Then, at some point later, go ahead and write an actual composed report where the smaller questions, the quotations, if you really want to, you can add in details about what people wore and joking asides and everything else.

    I understand this brings up all sorts of questions of “how do you know which questions are major or minor, how barebones is too barebones, etc.” but I feel if you get properly qualified reporters who are familiar with the material the panel is covering, it’s not that hard to know that “confirming project solicited last month” is less important than “previously unannounced project” or whatever.

    Comment by Chris Eckert — August 2, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  14. That’s a great idea, but it would basically require two people working on the coverage. Because having to juggle the liveblogging version at the same time as taking comprehensive notes is nigh impossible.

    With overlapping panels and the difficulty some press experienced getting into panels at SDCCI, I just don’t think it can be done. The money and time required to find and pay enough quality writers to double up on at least half the covered panels is prohibitive.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 3, 2008 @ 3:16 pm

  15. Very Good article. Questions have to be asked as to the qualifications of the ‘journalists’ for most of these things other than being a fan of the medium. When you start getting paid to write something like this the quality should be excellent and above every thing.

    Comment by Bradley Burnie — August 4, 2008 @ 1:20 am

  16. Good article. You really don’t realize how much is lost/wrong in these recaps until you actually go to a panel. I was reading recaps of the days I wasn’t at SDCC and couldn’t decipher a lot of what Tabu was saying (Such as the Supergirl part.)

    Comment by jayfarer — August 4, 2008 @ 4:21 am

  17. Wow.

    Well, I guess I can’t wonder about the diminished amount of hate mail I’ve been getting anymore — it’s simply moved out to the blogs. Who knew?

    First of all, thanks for taking the time to go and pick through (and in some cases insult) stuff that I wrote over the weekend. That’s honestly really great for me, in that my writing teachers drilled into me that it wasn’t a bad thing for people to hate and pore over my work — indifference was the killer. The fact that you took this kind of time to rake me over the coals is kind of fantastic, and I honestly, in-no-way-being-sarcastic, rather appreciate it.

    Second, I don’t have any links off the top of my head from the many, many years I’ve been on this beat, but I’ve had tons of other “live” reports referred to as being consistently crappier than mine. I never said mine were flawless, or that they could transmute issues of Monarchy into gold. I said that, as a whole, they were considered more accurate and press-ready than other things. Which I’ve been told by my editors, many the subjects in question themselves and many readers who have been in the same panels. Which, again, is why people keep paying me to do this.

    Third, I’m under a specific set of instructions from my overlords — try and capture the “feeling” of the panel more than the details. CBR in particular does lots of side interviews and press releases and all kinds of stuff. I have been asked to focus on recording the crazy. Eddie Berganza getting chased down. A girl in a Supergirl costume who admits to not reading Supergirl. Stuff like that. One of the main reasons for this is that the most fascinating breaking news we can deliver is just inches away from being copy in Previews. I used to be really Joe Friday about stuff, and I was asked to veer away from it. So I did.

    So yeah, things could easily have been better … but they could easily have been worse as well. I will, however, take your commentary to heart for next year (because it’s already been discussed that I’ll be covering SD and possibly Rosemont again for … lessee … my fifth “journalist” SDCC and my fourth WWRosemont) as I prepare my materials, as even I had a problem with some of the way I worked this time around (there were a lot fewer images in the work because the publishers were much later getting things done — in the past, we’ve had some idea what was gonna happen and could build the stories around that).

    Fantastic blog — just snarky enough, with the appropriate amount of insults to take swipes at me without ever giving an alternative or any qualifications for you to do so, and a slew of anti-me comments at the end. I love it. Keep up the great work!

    Comment by Hannibal Tabu — August 4, 2008 @ 5:32 am

  18. Get over yourself. The focus of this isn’t to rake you over the coals, you’re just the most prominent example being used. The point is that instead of an intelligent summary reporting news and happenings the final record ends up being a bunch of twitter garbage that doesn’t make any sense. Live updates can be good, and the errors forgivable, as long as there is a coherent summary written up afterward. I don’t think anyone has a problem with live updates that are sparse while the event is still going on, but not editing them into an article that makes sense (even days later) is shoddy even for blogging, not to mention journalism.

    Why don’t you address that and how the standards have slipped instead of focusing on yourself.

    Comment by JFC — August 4, 2008 @ 6:15 am

  19. Well if the people that are paying you are happy with the work you’re doing, and your happy with the work your doing, soldier on!

    But then, I guess a 500 word 3-point response (point 1: I don’t care, point 2: I used to be good, 3: It’s not my fault) followed by a sarcastic insult on some small-time blog wouldn’t have been necessary.

    But to me the amazing part is the people who call you out aren’t just trolls. They’re people who are leaving their real names, they, how do you say… “Don’t give a fuck.”

    Comment by Joseph from FBB — August 4, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  20. “Well if the people that are paying you are happy with the work you’re doing, and your happy with the work your doing, soldier on!”

    Not a problem.

    “But then, I guess a 500 word 3-point response (point 1: I don’t care, point 2: I used to be good, 3: It’s not my fault) followed by a sarcastic insult on some small-time blog wouldn’t have been necessary.”

    Well, very little is actually necessary but I was fantastically amused by this blog post (and something else to come in a second), and spirit knows I’ll go to extraordinary lengths for my own amusement. Moreover, I believe a more accurate assessment of my response was 1) I love that you hated it, 2) I may suck by some standards, but I don’t swallow and 3) I’m doing what I’ve been hired to do, just like the guy who sells solid state death at McDonalds. As with all things, your mileage may vary.

    Funniest of all to me today? Spotlight on Keith Giffen ( — we do so much coverage from Comic-Con (and you’ll keep seeing it coming out for at least another few days if I understand correctly) that we literally can’t publish it all during con. We publish the stuff that’s believed to drive the biggest amounts of traffic (i.e. ad impressions which makes the site money) and then push the other stuff out on a staggered schedule. Patience, young blog padawan, be mindful of the living Force.

    I also don’t mind anonymous hate mail. Again, whatever I did got somebody so emotionally involved that they needed to act. I get emails from people saying they read my stuff just to see what they’ll disagree with. That’s *fantastic* — it’s almost better than being adored. I figure that if I get all bent out of shape over *words* about me or my work (and since people really don’t know me, it has to be about the work, so I ignore or snicker at most personal attacks) then I need to get out of the freakin’ business. Luckily (or maybe not so luckily for some), I’m still amused, so I’ll carry on like My Chemical Romance.

    Good talk! >8^)


    Comment by Hannibal Tabu — August 4, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

  21. A few points of clarification for Mr. Tabu:

    0. I don’t consider my article “hate mail”, and I certainly don’t hate you. It wasn’t even directed at you specifically, you were just a useful example. And I resent you calling it anonymous hate mail. I’m not anonymous. My name and biographical information are attached to this and everything else I’ve written on the site. I am posting my analysis of professional work on the Internet the same way you do on CBR, and my negative appraisal of your convention recap is no more “anonymous hate mail” than your negative reviews of comics are “anonymous hate mail” towards comic creators. Your tone is unfairly dismissive, and suggests to me you’re not interested in any actual criticism or conversation.

    1. I wish I did not have to pick through your (or anyone else’s) convention reports, struggling to glean accurate information from them. I wish that I could be indifferent about them, easily learning the relevant news. That is the purpose of news reporting, though you later make it clear you weren’t really tasked to provide news. My lack of indifference is leading me to long for (and consider producing) an alternative product, and to have a strong aversion to choosing yours in the future. I am not sure if your traditional journalism teacher says “your work should inspire questions of accuracy and clarity, that is better than indifference!”

    2. I don’t have any links either, but I readily acknowledge tons of “live” reports that have been pretty terrible, I agree. Some were doubtlessly worse than the DC Nation panel I dissected. I never wished to suggest that you are the only con recapper I am dissatisfied with, nor that you are the worst. If there were only a few bad con reports, I could happily ignore them and read the good ones. But I cannot, and you work for one of the highest profile sites in comics coverage, *and* you set yourself up as the “best”. Therefore you were a fitting case study of the problems I see endemic to con coverage. I am sorry you took this as nothing but “anonymous hate mail” and “snark” directly at you.

    3. I was not aware of your specific instructions in recapping the panels. Obviously you are not to blame for your employer’s demands, and this really shifts much of my dissatisfaction away from your writing and onto your “overlords”. In my experience, people follow news sites on the day of a convention to get, well, news. You’re right, in a few weeks or months, the details of new creative teams and collections will be in Previews, which is why reporting that stuff quickly and accurately is such a valuable resource. Previews will never scoop you guys on how the panel “felt”, and “capturing the feeling” and “recording the crazy” are best suited for something a little less immediate than liveblogging, so why not save that for (a little) later? The Supergirl sequence made no sense in your telling of it, I had to listen to a recording of the panel and look at a couple other reports from competing sites to understand what exactly happened there. I have no doubt had you sat down and spent a few minutes explaining the Supergirl story instead of liveblogging it, the feeling would have been captured much better.

    But again I should not direct this at you, since it’s clear that CBR is less interested in “news” reporting as much as “the crazy”. I’m just not the audience for that, and I shouldn’t be disappointed when CBR/CBR’s writers are not meeting my wants as a reader if it’s clear they’re not trying to. I hope other comics sites might have slightly different goals, but it’s unfair for me to criticize you for that. I misunderstood your assignment.


    “Fantastic blog — just snarky enough, with the appropriate amount of insults to take swipes at me without ever giving an alternative or any qualifications for you to do so, and a slew of anti-me comments at the end. I love it. Keep up the great work!”

    I really have no desire to make this a personal issue, but why is it that only the snarkiest of bloggers ever pull out this “way to snark, snarky!” card as a cut-down? I like to think I did my best to weed out personal insults, and I feel like I gave ample suggestions as to what I feel could be improved with future convention reportage. I am happy to discuss further suggestions in the comments, but you clearly consider me anonymous, insulting and unqualified to speak on such matters so I suppose I should reserve my future suggestions for someone who might listen honestly.

    Comment by Chris Eckert — August 4, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  22. H, I have as high a tolerance for myopic narcissism couched in passive-aggressive snark as the next internet person, but stuff like this:

    “Good talk! >8^)

    That’s just got to go

    Comment by Jonathan Bernhardt — August 4, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  23. Chris Eckert 4 Life!

    Comment by HALL-E — August 4, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

  24. Mr. Tabu,

    I don’t think that anyone has a problem with the style of reporting that CBR hires you to do. Although I’m sure some would prefer more AP style reporting, there’s a much bigger audience for gonzo articles focusing on the atmosphere surrounding con panels.

    The post doesn’t really criticize your stylistic choice, but the inaccuracies in your articles. The details that you don’t include in your articles prevent your readers from understanding what happened at a given panel, which is distinct from information that a publisher would later disseminate in a press release, or that a creator would later give in an interview.

    Personally, I think it’s one of the real weaknesses of gonzo journalism. There’s so much focus on the ‘atmosphere’ and the personal experience of the journalist that the fundamentals of journalism are disregarded. I don’t think this is a problem for some beats. In politics, there’s such an overflow of conventional reporting that it’s not a big deal if someone writes a long-form article that focuses on their personal experience and leaves out important details (or background information). But in comics, that overflow doesn’t exist. We don’t have an Associated Press. If CBR and Newsarama don’t cover the panels accurately, we don’t know what’s going on. Sure, bloggers like David Brothers give some of us an alternative, but Dave can’t be everywhere.

    -Edited to correct an error! This is why I shouldn’t post from work…

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — August 4, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

  25. Thing is, I don’t think his reports even do that good of a job at capturing the “feel” anyway. Granted, I wasn’t there so I have no “feel” to compare it to, but I almost always find his personal asides to be unfunny and annoyingly distracting from even describing what he calls “the crazy.” As Chris points out, with his “Supergirl incident” example, you can’t even really tell what’s happening when it’s “crazy,” let alone get any decent bits of news out of it.

    I gushed about this on my own blog but Agent_M on Twitter covered the con for Marvel and used a new site technology called Cover It Live ( I think?) that’s basically an always-open “chat” box in a blog post. He sat there and typed short one-sentence items about what was happening at the panel. These included bits of news, bits of “crazy,” and a rough transcript of the various things said. AS the weekend went on, he even had someone in the Marvel offices on hand with artwork being shown at the panel to upload so we were seeing images online even as they were being shown to the crowd. That coverage was better than ANYTHING I read all weekend at any of the major comics news sites. is of course a corporate marketing site, and it’s doing a better job at raw coverage of an event than the journalists who are supposedly “better” because they are “paid”? Come on. Why wasn’t CBR or Newsarama using something like that?

    Forget new, maybe pricey technologies–how hard is this to figure out? Three Twitter accounts–CBR1, CBR2, CBR3–anyone at a panel logs into one of the three and updates live instantly with short news blurbs on what’s happening. I can do that from my Blackberry, you can do it from your iPhone, or a laptop, or even a text message. RSS sucks them into an instapost that goes up immediately after the panel. More complete report to follow when it’s not insane. Done.

    If I ever go to San Diego again, count me in for your volunteer citizen journalism coverage cabal.

    (And I don’t think he’s the one who called it that, but man, if Hannibal Tabu is what passes for “gonzo” journalism in an industry as creative and smartass as comics, I am so so sad for us.)

    Comment by Matt — August 4, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

  26. Scratch my earlier response to the blog. I now want to print it out, spirit it away to a romantic local, and spend the weekend in bed with it. ;)

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 4, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

  27. Matt is of course a corporate marketing site, and it’s doing a better job at raw coverage of an event than the journalists who are supposedly “better” because they are “paid”? Come on. Why wasn’t CBR or Newsarama using something like that?

    In fairness, Marvel does make more money than both of those sites and always has access to images and major announcements about their product before they’re made. :)

    But that doesn’t mean that they can’t do a better job. And I agree wholeheartedly about Agent_M’s impact via Twittering.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 4, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  28. Wait, he showed up twice to argue with you guys? That’s some validation right there. Nice!

    Comment by Tucker Stone — August 4, 2008 @ 5:03 pm

  29. Seeing Hannibal Tabu’s name makes me feel better as a person.

    Comment by Matt — August 4, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

  30. Does he honestly get paid, though? the only notion more depressing than that is the idea (I’ve just had) that pretty much any Silver Bullet Comics writers get paid.

    Comment by Duncan — August 4, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  31. He gets paid, yes.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — August 4, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

  32. I guess not all changes are improvements. I’ve noticed it too that the con cover is really poor.
    BTW I thought to suggest blogroll links swap between our blogs but was not sure how to contact.

    Comment by Katherine — August 5, 2008 @ 7:55 am

  33. *Hannibal clicks over to see what hatred the blogosphere has for him today*

    Sorry, JFC, didn’t notice your post. Whadda we have here? Hmm …

    “Live updates can be good, and the errors forgivable, as long as there is a coherent summary written up afterward.”

    You mean like the Previews catalog? Because — at best — we’re serving as very advance buying information on product. We’re not breaking news of scandals in real estate or earthquakes in China.

    “Why don’t you address that and how the standards have slipped instead of focusing on yourself.”

    Well, if the piece hadn’t used my name in so many paragraphs (and honestly, I’m just happy it’s spelled right, you’d be shocked how often people get four letters wrong, even when I was little) I might. But as it read, it felt much more like the hate mail I’ve been getting about different things I’ve reviewed, ever since my very first piece back in 1994. Moreover, I believe that the coverage has *improved* dramatically, as is shown by our video coverage in particular (where Geoff Johns revealed his Smallville writing a day before he was supposed to and where Justin Hartley slipped up and talked about some of the work being done on a spinoff) and the sheer volume of stuff we put out. Pound for pound, the amount of stuff coming out is worth the trouble if you’re *that* into this, and I frankly don’t believe CBR has anything even remotely resembling competition in this arena.

    Jonathan: I *do* believe this is a good talk, despite the fact that there are a number of points of it that border on hilarity.

    Jamaal Thomas: Thank you for your cogent arguments. I see some of your point, but (from a professional perspective, as somebody who sits in a *lot* of panels) there’s not much that actually is said. For example, the last panel I did had exactly one piece of real news worth the name: Gaiman on Batman. I sat there typing for an hour to get to that one piece of news, and got no chance for follow up data. The panel literally recapped the events of every other panel I covered (and one I didn’t), all of which had been reported on extensively. As fascinated as I was by the Len Wein spotlight (which I just caught recreationally), unless you care about the fact Jericho was supposed to be a Black character or didn’t know that Wein gave Alan Moore his in to US comics, it’s just anecdotal. The reasons why there’s no AP for comics is because a) not that much actually happens that, again, doesn’t end up in Previews (unless you count stuff like that Axel Alonso/Darwyn Cooke thing, which was just funny) and b) the market doesn’t support it.

    Matt: Sitting in these rooms, *I* often don’t know what’s happening, and the same has been said by actual panelists. Panels are getting more and more chaotic as these things go on (you could almost get a syllabus at the start back around 2000), especially with DiDio saying he’s tired and that’s why he kept “accidentally” insulting “Fringe.” Overworked editorial staffs are sent out to represent their work while drinking to the wee hours of the morning. They’re hung over. They’re unhappy that they keep having increased workloads while losing assistants (Bob Shreck has said this to me three cons in a row). They’re sleep deprived. They’re often largely incoherent. This shows in the presentations they give. Which, sadly, shows in the coverage. If you’re getting a coherent picture of, say, a “Cup o Joe” panel or a “DC Nation,” you’re not getting the feel of what’s actually happening, which an overwhelming number of people have emailed and said they want. I am a big Twitter user, and it’s unpredictable as hell — in Chicago, my “Illuminaughty” photo took a day to post, and even Matt Fraction complains about when it eats his tweets. They’ll have to get some API and server reliability issues together before they can be considered ready for prime time. I will, however, check out CoverItLive, and I’ve already implemented some changes to my process to streamline what I’m doing just based on my fingers getting tired as hell this year.

    Tucker: Who’s arguing? I’d *like* to think we’re all having a civil, mature discourse (before my week goes berserk on Wednesday and I disappear into a cloud of DJing, reviews and parties until, oh, next Monday). I didn’t know anybody needed validation … I think I saw somebody at con giving out free hugs … >8^)

    Anyhoo, I’ve got to close this party down so I can get ready for my regular “Tuesday night to Sunday morning” onslaught (without the telepathy and magnetism), so let me clarify some things: details matter, and atmosphere matters too — there is no mandate to sacrifice one, but many directives to enhance both. I don’t do anywhere near enough mockery nor cursing to be doing “gonzo” journalism — I saved that for the columns I used to do and the blogs I manage recreationally. Did I do my best job of live reporting this year? Maybe, maybe not. I can’t speak for anybody else. But I’ve had emails from twelve panelists and thirty four fans thanking me for the coverage and points of accuracy, plus I’m due a fairly big check, so I’m gonna keep calling this my best con ever.

    Are we CNN? No. Can we be? Maybe some day. Are we improving? Every day — if you’re not checking the video coverage we’re doing, you’re really missing out, because Denys Cowan and Reggie Hudlin on the yacht is worth seeing. But again, I’m happy to see disparagements of my work, and I can take a hit.

    Now, seriously, I have to go finish working on two web sites before the *real* deluge of work starts … auf wiedersen.

    Comment by Hannibal Tabu — August 5, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

  34. Ah…the trademark of the egotistical: signing off with something meant to demonstrate they’re better than you. ;)

    “Are we CNN?” Sir, no one is exactly asking for that. I think we’d be satisfied with you being as professional as the local paper in some podunk town. You want to talk about how atmosphere is important, but you let joking statements pass by as being made seriously (re: the running gag about Blackest Night). You did dismiss complaints about accuracy to say that the atmosphere was what was specifically stressed to you. My guess? Someone didn’t like your inaccurate portrayal of what is expected from panel coverage at CBR. Backpedal much?

    And you save the mockery for the columns you used to do? Did The Buy Pile get canceled sometime in the last week?

    Hannibal, if you cut back on your constant snark and…oh, I don’t know…acknowledge that you’re human and own up to your mistakes rather than make inane excuses, you might have a few less haters and convert at least as many apathetic readers into fans. Maybe if CBR had comments/message board threads at the end of their front page content, you might have developed a thicker skin by now, admit your errors and move on.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 5, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

  35. “But I’ve had emails from twelve panelists and thirty four fans thanking me for the coverage and points of accuracy, plus I’m due a fairly big check, so I’m gonna keep calling this my best con ever.”

    What’s a ‘Fairly Big Check’? We’re talking mid 4-figures for a week’s work? If so, couldn’t more copy-editing fit into the budget? It sounds like this may also be an editorial problem but I dunno, I’m not in that business.

    And as far as “hatred the blogosphere has for him today”, I think I can speak for everyone here at FBB that no one here hates you, FBB isn’t “Hate for Comics”. Comiccon coverage about comics is clearly not on the level of other enthusiast press, especially in regards to panel reports. Liveblogs for GDC, E3, and even movie panels at SDCC seem to be much better in my opinion.

    I’ve been part of film and television production for quite a while now, and I know how hard budgeting can be. But what kind of budget does cbr have to cover SDCC? Is it miserably low? Medium sized?

    Comment by Joseph from FBB — August 5, 2008 @ 3:26 pm

  36. Joe,

    I don’t know if you can make a direct analogy between panels at comic conventions and conventions for other industries. There is a difference in the quantity and quality of the news that’s broken in video game conventions, or even movie panels.

    And you can get copy editors for almost no $. The real question is whether the typos matter. Does CBR think that its’ audience cares?

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — August 5, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

  37. Jamaal, I think you’re off on the importance of panel coverage. They’re of equal value to their enthusiasts. Anything announced at a movie or video game convention will come out in some press release or other publicity days or weeks later (same as the “it’ll be out in Previews” stuff).

    No one NEEDS to know about Flash: Rebirth now versus weeks from now, but that’s what pulls in more viewers. Just like no one NEEDS to hear Billy Crudup talk about the motion capture sensors and the blue helmet he wore, but people want to read it.

    Do typos matter? Yes and no. No site wants to keep their articles from running for another X minutes to check for typos, because the audience will read the typo-laden coverage at a competitor in the interim. But I’m pretty sure all sites want to project a professional image by fixing all caught errors. Newsarama had a mod (editbot) that, from what I observed, mostly served to fix typos and the like found in articles (this was pre-launch).

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 5, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

  38. Kevin,

    Maybe I should be more specific. I wasn’t saying that enthusiasts care less (at least in this thread), but that the amount of information is less.

    Once you announce the titles and the creative team, there’s just not as much left to talk about as the Watchmen panel, just to use your example. It’s even worse when you get to question and answer sessions.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — August 5, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

  39. Have you heard some of the questions Billy Crudup got on that panel? Not much better. ;)

    But I still contend there’s close to zero difference. What do you get at a movie panel? A lot of talking about the director’s and actors’ vision of the story and characters? You don’t exactly glean really important info there, in the grand scheme. It is just info that movie fanboys want to hear. Kinda like a comics panel. ;) Movies just have a bigger fanbase than comics.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — August 6, 2008 @ 3:05 am

  40. to be fair, though, tons of mainstream outlets are covering the film panels. Comics press is all we have for, say, gaimsns batman or final crisis.

    Comment by David u — August 6, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

  41. […] of all, while Comic Book Resources panel reports were – sincerely – the worst journalism I have ever encountered, I did enjoy for pretty much the first time ever some Comicbook TV on their Boat Show, hosted by […]

    Pingback by Uncephalitic itch - 10/8/08 « Mindless Ones — August 9, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

  42. I’m sorry to hear people say that the CBR coverage was “the worst journalism” they ever encountered.

    I busted my ass to report accurately on the nine panels I covered–and I was crunched for time like everyone else, but I’m happy with how my reports turned out.

    My articles probably became a bit more rushed as the convention wore on, but here’s my first panel coverage:

    And you can click on “More from this Author” to see the rest.

    Don’t be so quick to dismiss all of the CBR coverage.

    Comment by TimCallahan — August 11, 2008 @ 2:36 am

  43. Tim – thanks for posting, and despite how Mindless Ones linked to us, I know I can speak for Chris in saying that the coverage by you, Sean T. Collins, and some of the other dudes at CBR who pulled in really solid reporting is appreciated and recognized. The danger with a piece like this, of course, is accentuation of the negative. This piece admittedly uses a specific CBR reporter to discuss issues endemic across the entire field, but I don’t believe the article ever states that CBR itself is in any way cut-rate (again, despite how Mindless Ones linked to us, and I know we mention Newsarama a few times too).

    I’m a huge fan of your blog, and I hope you recognize this article as a comment about the system rather than CBR itself, or any kind of disparagement of you or your colleagues.

    Thank you!

    Comment by David Uzumeri — August 11, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  44. Today’s Film Reel noted CBR’s interview with “Jeremy” Quinto.

    Hannibal Tabu does shoddy work and should be fired from CBR.

    Comment by Dan Coyle — August 14, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  45. I stopped reading his reviews awhile ago but I don’t think he is being snarky when he says he enjoys the “haters”. They have to read it to hate it. And I guarantee that some folks who have read this will take a look at his column now. He ought to break you off some of his nice sized check.

    Comment by awb — August 15, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

  46. And demanding someone be fired for something like this is kind of effed up isn’t it? I thought the author said this is going on all over the place (until another CBR writer came here-that’s ok we were talking about the OTHER CBR writer, not you. Really. He should be fired for being the only guy singled out?

    Comment by awb — August 15, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  47. He should be fired because he’s consistently done poor quality work as opposed to people like Collins and Callahan.

    Plus, he couldn’t even get the name of an actor who was being interviewed on his own fucking site.

    Comment by Dan Coyle — August 15, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  48. He will probably be fired when you stop reading his stuff.

    Comment by awb — August 15, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

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