Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

The Girl with the Embargoed Tattoo: New Yorker film critic banned from screenings after jumping the gun

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From time to time, I cover book embargo kerfuffles here at Embargo Watch, even if they have nothing to do with science. I do it because it’s a reminder that the tension between competing interests and the free flow of information is an issue in many areas. I don’t do this terribly often, and I generally ignore technology product release embargo breaks, which seem to happen almost as often as scientific retractions.

Today, I bring you the tale of a broken movie embargo by the New Yorker’s David Denby. Denby, you see, is the author of review of Scott Rudin’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which will run in the magazine this week — a week before the embargo was scheduled to lift. The move — which Rudin called “very, very damaging” in an email exchange — landed Denby a ban on all future press screenings of Rudin-produced films.

The entire exchange is quite illuminating — read it here at indieWIRE, which obtained the emails — particularly for Denby’s excuses. As The Guardian reports, the critic:

cited a combination of the business’s skew-whiff release schedule and increased pagination for leading him into temptation.

“The system is destructive,” he said. “Grownups are ignored for much of the year, cast out like downsized workers, and then given eight good movies all at once in the last five weeks of the year. A magazine like the New Yorker has to cope as best as it can with a nutty release schedule … Like many weeklies, we do a double issue at the end of the year, at this crucial time. This exacerbates the problem.”

Denby also laid blame on the New York Critics Circle, who requested an early screening of the film to accommodate their annual awards ceremony, before apologising for the breach, citing “year-end madness”. His apology was rejected by Rudin. “If you weren’t prepared to honour the embargo, you should have done the honourable thing and said so before you accepted the invitation,” he said in reply. “The glut of Christmas movies is not news to you, and to pretend otherwise is simply disingenuous.”

Being banned from all future screenings is a bit more harsh than any sanctions I’ve seen science journals impose. I’ll be curious to see how long the ban actually lasts, and whether it applies to Denby’s fellow New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane.

Also worth noting: This isn’t the first time the Stieg Larsson series has been involved in an embargo break. Last year, smaller Canadian bookstores complained that Chapters Indigo had broken a sale date embargo on The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.

Hornet’s nest, indeed. Of course, if it’s all too much, you could just listen to one of my favorite bands, Fountains of Wayne, as they sing “Red Dragon Tattoo.”

Hat tip for headline: Denise Graveline

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 5, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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