On the Value of the Critique Embargo

This is a very interesting bit of opinion from Slate, regarding the recent break of the review embargo on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by the New Yorker.

Food for thought.


The idea that a magazine is making editorial decisions based on whether reviews are positive or negative is worse than breaking the embargo in the first place.

via David Denby and Scott Rudin Dispute: Who’s Right?.


3 thoughts on “On the Value of the Critique Embargo

  1. I was taught the importance of the journalistic embargo in my high school Journalism 1 class. It went something like this: of course you can break the embargo. You can report anything you want whenever you want. But, if you do, sources will be hesitant to speak to you ever again, and you’ll discredit your journalistic integrity and the integrity of your paper. Don’t do it.

    Unless it’s really important. Like…you discovered that several major banks and financial companies were deliberately loaning money they knew people couldn’t pay back or draining the country of its monetary wealth. You know, Huge. Shit.

    I was While I was at WGN, reporters would often come in from the field, deliver their report to the rest of the newsroom, and then say, “but it’s embargoed until…” It’s not just respect for the source, or for the art, or for the good of the community – it’s the honor of being a good journalist.

    A movie-review published early will not cripple the economic well-being of the country, but it should be enough to fire David Denby and his editor.

    And I can’t find a job.

  2. To be fair, this author didn’t quite convince me of the necessity of the embargo. He made it seem like the media and the marketing industries were one in the same, which is not noble. Scott hints at the honor of obedient journalists. This writer only touches on the absurdity of a potential race-to-be-first.

    Obviously, it’s bad for business, because now Scott Rudin is pissed off at the New Yorker and that guy has been a consistent money maker for over a decade, which is rare in Hollywood. You don’t want that guy barring New Yorker staff from screenings. That’s just going to get ugly.

    Still, this article trips and falls on its face about 4/5 of the way in. I’m so confused by the author’s point that I read the conclusion twice to no avail. It’s sloppy.

    Other than being bad business and short-sighted (and yeah Denby should be put to task for wittingly violating embargo), I don’t see any effect on the world of journalism from the infraction.

    I’m a little sick of Hollywood, which is certainly coloring my opinion of this. Marketing ethics are such a slim portion of journalistic ethics that I don’t think I give a shit anymore. Was it worth it? Hell no. Should Denby be fired? I don’t know, but I do know there are literally thousands of wannabe film critics who would be more obedient.

    A little more ramble: if it was a prototype of a new iPhone, which did happen with the iPhone4, that was found and reviewed by a major company (was it Gizmodo? Wired?), that’s totally different. But this isn’t a prototype and it wasn’t found by chance. This is the final product. And it was shown to Denby. He’s a cheat, sure, and a snake. But it’s not just some fucking movie, it’s a remake/adaptation of a major international pop-lit series that has been read by every single person I know (excluding the contributors to this site). The book is candy, the film is whipped cream. And all of this attention is only going to help the opening. For instance, I didn’t know it was opening soon, now I know it’s coming out in the next few weeks. I didn’t know Scott Rudin produced it, now I know he did.

    Final opinion: the whole thing is an orchestrated controversy to A) help the film get even more attention (it’s good, guys!), and B) scare off other film reviewers who are even considering breaking the embargo (it’s bad, guys.)

  3. I’m not sure that the source article was discussing marketing for the films so much as fair competition between reviewers. It’s not entirely fair to broaden this article to anything more than proper etiquette for film reviews.

    But yeah. In a system where nothing is entirely separable from commerce, cynicism may be the only appropriate stance.

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