A little more than 11 years ago Variety‘s Pete Hammond wrote a somewhat dismissive piece about the Oscar blogging hotshots of ’02 — The Hot Button‘s David Poland, Oscar Watch‘s Sasha Stone, Movie Poop Shoot‘s Jeffrey Wells, the L.A. Times-affiliated Gold Derby, Fox.com‘s Roger Friedman.
Several of these articles, which could be condensed as “dead-tree media reporter looks askance at online whippersnappers,” popped up in those early days, but Hammond’s was one of the first. The beef was that the authors of these sites didn’t sound enough like John Horn or Claudia Eller or Gregg Kilday or Bernie Weinraub. They offered too much scattershot opinion and personality and weren’t objective enough.
“Oscar prognosticators on the web are multiplying as fast as studio remakes, but does anyone actually pay attention to these self-styled experts?,” it began. “Welcome to the new world of cyber-Oscar and the tangled web he is weaving, where one day Chicago is the picture to beat and the next day it’s ‘fading fast,’ all before it even hits theaters.
“Objectivity clearly isn’t the goal for these site hosts, who freely mix personal opinions with plants from publicists and filmmakers.
“Internet columnists such as Poland, Wells and Friedman also try to inject themselves into the dialogue with nonstop awards chatter and predictions at their sites.
“Several Oscar consultants and film execs say they monitor these sites consistently, at least to make sure they can’t do any damage to a well-orchestrated Academy campaign.
“I don’t contact them — I respond to them,” says Tony Angellotti, a veteran Oscar campaign consultant working with Universal and Disney animation this year, who often checks in on different sites. Will you listen to that condescension? That tone of derision? Angellotti could be talking about homeless people or termites.
“I see what’s written, and if there’s something inaccurate I will point it out to them, and hopefully that puts them on the right track.” Unless…you know, they ignore me or something ’cause they’re impetuous, ego-driven fuckers who have no regard for journalistic standards.
“Nancy Utley, president of marketing for Fox Searchlight, admits she visits Oscar Watch and Gold Derby to see what the current buzz is. Utley says she is not always confident [about] the level of expertise she finds at some sites, however. ‘A lot of times they are handicapping movies that they haven’t even seen,’ she says. ‘It’s a little bit crazy.”
“[And yet] Oscar-watching on the web seems to be a growing phenomenon and a new wrinkle for already beleaguered campaigners to deal with.
“Oscar Watch‘s Sasha Stone says practically every day someone asks her to add a link to some new Oscar site that has just popped up. ‘I had no idea it would be as popular as it has become,’ she says. ‘Every year it has gotten bigger and bigger, and started earlier and earlier, and the hit count keeps going up.’
Here’s the best passage of the whole piece: “Still, no one is yet claiming these sites have reached the key constituency of every Oscar campaigner: the elusive Academy voter. ‘It’s hard to imagine Robert Wise surfing the net and reading this stuff,’ says one publicity exec. ‘These sites are more for the Oscar consultants and publicists than voters. Most members are still reached through more traditional means.”