Instead of appending this to my ANN editorial last week, I figure this deserves an entire post by itself. I’ve been getting a bunch of good emails regarding this topic. Apparently I’m not the only one dissatisfied with this new direction for ANN.
I was very worried about criticizing the ANN because who am I to judge journalism when all I do is program computers? However, Cameron of In Search of Number Nine actually has a background in journalism, and he’s not happy either:
[...] but as a person who studied journalism, I seriously question some of their editorial decisions. Now, I really try to not be angry. I mean I really try not to be angry at them. But on the other hand, I care about journalism a lot. And more than anything else, I want them to live up to their name. But to do that, they really need to do a few things.
First, they need to have a clear line between their op/ed desk and their news desk. Right now one of their best columnists is doing most of their reporting. Poorly, I might add. I don’t need to read the Crunchyroll article to know that it’s not going to be a fair article. Why? Because Zac Bertschy has already stated his opinion. How can I trust him to write a fair and balanced article, when he wears his bias on his sleeve? How can I trust that the briefs they’re giving me are going to be fair, when their Executive Editor states exactly what he feels about everything right out in the open? Frankly, it’s a conflict of interest for him to wear both hats and hurts the credibility of both the Site and professional journalism as a whole.
Second, they need to start treating their readers with respect. Lately I have seen a rising tide of fanboyism running through the forums. And while that’s become part of the Internet culture, it certainly shouldn’t overwhelm people who have honest and fair criticisms. To be honest, I don’t want to participate in discussions there because of it. I don’t want to question them there because I think it’s a wasted effort. Even reasonable criticism gets shut down.
Third, they really need to think about the ethics of their actions. Sure, doing reviews does serve their readers. But they’re making money off of doing reviews of an illegal product. Reviews by their very nature are designed to tell readers whether something is worth watching or not worth watching. They’re not news. In fact, they’re really only one step away from posting a link to the Torrent and saying, “Well the fansub is out.” And it’s not a very big step. Not to mention that there’s no note about whether or not THEY paid for the show. So in a sense, they’re committing an illegal activity to write about it and then making money off of it. Granted this isn’t as bad as Crunchyroll, but it’s not a really big step. This again hurts their credibility.
I mean when I read blogs, I expect opinion. I don’t hold them to the same standards. And episode review blogs can’t be making the kind of money that ANN is right now. But when I see the word news, I expect certain things. And so far, ANN is not living up to the expectations I have for professionals.
But what do I know? I’m just a blogger.
Cameron also wrote a second post on the ANN subject again later that week. For a blogger, I’d take his fantastically written editorial pieces over anything the ANN says any day.
Brad Rice of Japanator also offered his views on the subject and suggests the cause for ANN sudden change in policy:
[...] I feel that ANN has been utterly frightened by the blogging community. Well, specifically, they had the crap scared out of them when animeOnline launched, and the site, while small, was making a huge amount of headway in terms of reporting news and taking things out from ANN’s nose. Basically, ever since then, ANN has been grasping at straws trying to come up with new content to keep its readership happy.
Being the bitter blogger that I am, I’ve been less than happy with ANN’s “service” to the industry. Oftentimes, they’re providing little more than press releases, and news that breaks elsewhere goes unreported for days on ANN because they want to avoid linking out to a source as much as humanly possible. They aren’t exactly the idealistic organization that they seem to be. Plus, isn’t it a little scary that pretty much all the power in the American anime industry is wielded by a single site? I’d rather have that power distributed amongst us bloggers too…
It is scary, but I still believe that ANN did what it used to do very well. I’m happy with it as just a press release provider, and I have relied on it as such for years. But if I wanted honest reviews and opinions from the fan community, blogs were the only way to go. You just can’t trust a website that relies so much of the industry dollar to give you their unbiased opinions.
I mentioned Mikhail Koulikov in the post, and I talked briefly with him at Comic Con last weekend over the subject. As you can imagine, it was kind of a moot point for both of us, so I didn’t hassle him at all with it. But after the conversation, I got the impression that, just like Brad said, ANN is actively changing their policies to match that of the anime bloggers. This fansub feature was just the first in a slew of new features coming down the pipeline for the website.
I was glad that the ANN took down their fansubs feature a couple of days after my post and replaced it with Koulikov’s excellent coverage of the convention. That’s the kind of news that the website needs to stick with. But all signs seem to indicate that the ANN will continue to go down this new path, and I can’t see how their current readership or the blogging community will actually welcome it.