Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Maxim Magazine: Losing the little credibility it ever had

If you haven't heard this story, it goes a little something like this:

Maxim magazine reviews the Black Crowes' new album, Warpaint, giving it 2 and a half stars and claimed that it hadn't given the band a lot of room for growth. The Black Crowes cried foul, as they hadn't released advance copies of the album to begin with, so how could Maxim have heard it to review it.

The magazine admitted that its reviewer indeed didn't hear the album and the review was in fact "an educated guess preview", but not marked as such and claimed that they made a decision between covering the band's first album in 7 years with a review and not covering it for a month, and that they chose the former.

Naturally, the band wasn't impressed by this, and I think rightfully so. They made comparisons to trying to review a movies one hadn't seen, a concert one didn't attend and books they didn't read and called into question their journalistic integrity, which again, has merit.

So Maxim apologized to their readers, but not to the band, which I think is an interesting strategy. I mean, most of the time, you apologize to the aggrieved party... I thought that is how that sort of thing worked.

To me, an apology to the band would have indeed been an apology to the readers by extension.

Now, as someone who has written reviews in both an amateur and professional capacity, I think that faking a review in the same ballpark as faking a story. It isn't the same magnitude of offense, mind you, but it is still very unethical. People put trust in a reviewer and their opinion, and by out and out lying in a review, Maxim has called into question their entire reviewing process.

Of course, if you are using Maxim magazine as your sole source of music reviews, well, you are certainly getting what you pay for. However, since the company behind Maxim, Dennis Publishing, also runs the music magazine Blender, and a lot of other magazines which also deal with reviews, including Auto Express, Computer Shopper, MacUser and the Fortean Times, all of which may be damaged by the actions of one editorial board. Because how do you know for sure that every review these publications run is for something that the writer has actually experienced because now there is some measure of doubt in my mind.

To me, I think that if Maxim magazine and Dennis Publishing wanted to really make a statement about this, they should suspend the reviewer in question. I mean, if MSNBC suspended a political reporter for making a crack about the Clintons using their daughter to garner celebrity endorsements, then certainly, this breach in ethics is certainly deserving of the same kind of treatment.


Megan said...

What the freakin' hell is an "educated guess preview" and how does anyone get paid to write such a thing?


MC said...

I don't know what it is... but I do know that it sounds fishy no matter what other explanation they give for it.

SamuraiFrog said...

This reminds of me of stories I've been told about working for the Leonard Maltin video guide. People ghostwriting the reviews are told to hand in something like 10 reviews a day; you can't watch 10 movies in a day. Apparently when this fact is pointed out, they're told to creatively research reviews in other books.

Which is the reason I don't take Leonard Maltin seriously. Which is too bad, because he's a damn good animation historian

Charivarius said...

You *can* watch 10 movies in a day, and keep that up for weeks (even months) on end. It helps if you have the appropriate media player installed, and are able to amp the speed up by 1.3-1.5 times... still catch the subtleties...

Micgar said...

"yeah well they haven't come out with something in a few years, so lets just say that the new one kinda sucked on the whole" "or we can just throw some darts on some descriptors and just publish those" What the hell? makes you wonder how much of this is going on?!

Lee said...

This is blogging reviews will eventually replace hack journalism. It's odd that the majority of bloggers have more credibility than people getting paid to write this stuff!

MC said...

SF: Yes, he is good in that specialization.

Charivarius: But you also have to remember that much of this activity with the Maltin Guide took place during the VHS age, when such devices would have been less effective. And I also think that if you are critically appraising something, the method you describe would be less than ideal from that standpoint. Just because I could speedread Shakespeare does not mean that would improve my ability to critically appraise 5 of his plays in a day in digest form. He is selling the idea that someone watched those movies and really thought about a rating.

Micgar: I have a feeling that it could be like steroids in sport... once people start seeing it happen, it seems like dominoes start falling and more and more people end up getting caught doing it because people are aware it is happening.

Lee: Well, I am still gaining my credibility.