Tuesday, February 28, 2006

So Long Speakeasy ...

There was certainly a lot of writing on that wall, wasn't there?

Speakeasy's gone under, which was surprising only in it's speed. As is his wont, Warren Ellis sums it up in today's Bad Signal email:

Things aren't getting harder. This
isn't market correction. This, I'm
sorry to say, is one publisher
getting it wrong from start to
finish: releasing too many books,
without a support structure.


My first thought, of course, was the fate of Elk's Run. Some other Speakeasy books have flitted on and off my radar, but that's the book that matters. These guys just won't quit, though, and Josh says we'll see the rest of the series. I expect that after what this title's been though, a lot of other creative teams would simply give up. Thankfully, the Elk's Run crew is not "a lot of other creative teams".

I can't imagine in what alternate universe "Rich Johnston" and "credibility" belong in the same sentence, but it's not this one. He's softpedaled the Speakeasy situation all along, due to his having The Flying Friar placed there. It's been made clear: if you don't want Rich raking your muck, give him a book. After his continued excoriation of other failed publishing companies, to dismiss a story that swept the 'net with a promotional one-liner after it was all made public is a sauce so weak as to be indistinguishable from water.

Finally, I've been trying to appeal to the better angels of my nature and not highlight one particular quote from Speakeasy President Adam Fortier.

My better angels are not responding.

I just don'’t have any passion for this. The last number of months was full of constant problems, and the last week was just full of working ... not even to keep people happy, but just to keep people satisfied. It'’s just too tough. It's not necessarily a great place to be anymore.


Emphasis mine.





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19 comments:

Rich Johnston said...

Soft pedellaed?

You mean taking serious accusations against Fortier and Speakeasy and both publishing them and putting them to Fortier when no one else would?

Bollocks.

Rich Johnston said...

Also: The story broke hours after the column had been written and filed. All I was able to do was add a one liner. I found out about Speakeasy going down on the wires.

Feel free to make a correction at your leisure.

Mark Fossen said...

You mean taking serious accusations against Fortier and Speakeasy and both publishing them and putting them to Fortier when no one else would?
You mean this?

I've seen you play hardball with publishers. This isn't it.

From the outside, it looks like you gave Adam a forum in which to answer those "serious accusations" with marketing evasions and no followup.

Also: The story broke hours after the column had been written and filed.

You were the first to know when you floated the "Cut Off Low Sales - Publish To Web" trial balloon. You were the one with inside access when you were able to ask those "serious accusations".

Suddenly, Rich Johnston is the last to know?

Feel free to make a correction at your leisure.

I have, obviously.

I'll still be reading LITG - the gossip and rumors can be fun. But when you attempt to crusade against this or that publisher who has done someone wrong ... it'll sound pretty hollow.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Is this one of those situations where the Bendis boarders say pwned? :-O

Rich Johnston said...

If Mark Alessi, or Pat Lee, or similar would have answered the questions I had for them, you would have seen just the same approach.

Adam decided to answer the questions I put to him. Mark and Pat did not. That is the only difference.

No other news service even reported the Grafiksismik allegations. I not only reported them in full, but put them to the accused party and got a response.

I did not know that Speakeasy was ceasing publication until after the email went out, that's right.

Sometimes I get stories, sometimes I don't. I got the cut off sales story. I didn't get the closing down story. Equally I got the Batman after One Year Later story, I didn't get the Superman one. That's what happens. I'm not some all knowing oracle... I get crumbs from the table. Always have done, always will do.

Any bias that you see only reflects your own.

Mark Fossen said...

Any bias that you see only reflects your own.
Rich, I'm just connecting dots. Your actions - to me - look like a consistent picture of a man with a serious conflict of interest. Real or percieved, reporting on a publisher you're working with creates a conflict of interest.

Perhaps I'm the only reader of your column that's made this connection.

... somehow, I doubt it, though.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

No other news service even reported the Grafiksismik allegations.

That's partly because they never intended for that email to go public and didn't want to complicate matters any further. Caisse has been over in The Engine recently, though, so maybe he's ready to talk now? I'd say you owe him a follow-up considering how you hung them out to dry with that batting practice session you held for Fortier that you're trying to pass off as getting "a response".

Rich Johnston said...

Hung out to dry? GS was given just the same opportunity to respond to Fortier and chose not to.

The e-mail was sent to a number of people, of whom six forwarded them to me. I know it was forwarded elsewhere.

Many news sites have published pieces that "weren't meant to go public".

Imagine if I hadn't printed that piece? What would I have been accused of then? Or if I had printed that piece, but not allowed Adam a right to reply?

A follow up is a good idea. But only if they've changed their minds about doing so.

Rich Johnston said...

"Rich, I'm just connecting dots. Your actions - to me - look like a consistent picture of a man with a serious conflict of interest."

Good point. Putting serious allegations of non payment to a publisher sounds like a classic act of sucking up to me.

"Real or percieved, reporting on a publisher you're working with creates a conflict of interest."

Thankfully it doesn't affect a single thing I write or a single story I choose to pursue.

Mark Fossen said...

Thankfully it doesn't affect a single thing I write or a single story I choose to pursue.

That's fine, Rich. You don't believe journalistic ethics apply to you. I get it. I believe, however, that a such a conflict of interest damages your credibility.

Rich Johnston said...

Mark, why should they, I'm not a journalist, I'm a gossip columnist.

a) Nevertheless I think I've made it pretty clear that I wrote a graphic novel for Speakeasy last year. I've also stated I had no other project with them.

b) I've also been totally consistent in my approach to Speakeasy, as I have Dreamwave, CrossGen, MVC and others.

c) I've printed actual damaging allegations against Speakeasy that no one else chose to, from news sites to message board to blogs, despite the email in question being widespread.

d)

Rich Johnston said...

And to what the final article has become:

"if you don't want Rich raking your muck, give him a book."

I was the only person raking the biggest Speakeasy muck, regarding Grafiksismik, something still ignored by many today. You may want to correct the impression given. And

"to dismiss a story that swept the 'net with a promotional one-liner after it was all made public is a sauce so weak as to be indistinguishable from water."

As I said, the story only "swept the net" after the column had gone to print. A one liner sent from my phone was all I could manage. You may want to correct the impression given.

Either way, it probably doesn't really matter what you say about me, as long as you spell the title of my comic book correctly.

Mark Fossen said...

Mark, why should they, I'm not a journalist, I'm a gossip columnist.

If you want to be a gossip columnist, you get the credibility of one. Which was the original point of my post, wasn't it? You don't get it both ways, Rich. If ethics don't apply, neither does credibility.


I've printed actual damaging allegations against Speakeasy that no one else chose to

Yes. To my eyes, you printed them in order to let Adam have a public forum in which to dismiss them.

as long as you spell the title of my comic book correctly.

Correction made ... and it will be the only correction I make. What I write here is my opinion, and my opinion hasn't changed.

Consciously or not, it appears to me that your relationship with Speakeasy and Fortier affected your coverage. And that leads me to wonder how Pat Lee would have fared had he published a book of yours, or how you would have handled the Speakeasy issues had Adam not published a book of yours.

Rich Johnston said...

I have no problem with you doubting my credibility. I do have a problem with you saying "if you don't want Rich raking your muck, give him a book" when that's not true, there's no evidence for it, indeed quite the opposite.

Your eyes are incorrect. I printed them, as they were well sourced from a notable individual doing the rounds. Good gossip. That Adam Fortier responded in kind was added gravy. If he hadn't responded, I would most definitely have published them as they were. I get paid by the hit, remember?

I am giving you evidence that refutes the opinions you stated as fact. That they haven't changed, is a matter for you.

If Pat Lee had published a book of mine, I might have got the bankruptcy notices online sooner. If Speakeasy had not handled a book of mine, I hope Forter would have been as willing to answer charges against him as he did.

Mark Fossen said...

I do have a problem with you saying "if you don't want Rich raking your muck, give him a book" when that's not true, there's no evidence for it, indeed quite the opposite.

Sorry you have a problem with that. Of course, if you avoid conflict of interest, these issues don't come up.

You put yourself in a situation where your motives and credibility are called into question. You've proven nothing here in these comments, merely offering "trust me". The "evidence" is in your LITG columns, and it points to ... well, I don't need to repeat my original post.

I'm done, Rich. Neither my opinion or post is changing anytime soon.

Rich Johnston said...

Conflict of interest is unavoidable.

I have proved that "giving me a book" does not stop me from "raking your muck" by giving an example where serious muck was raked, that no one else would touch.

If your opinion cannot change from that then you're up there with the creationists.

Mark Fossen said...

Conflict of interest is unavoidable.

Actually, it's not. It's as simple as "I cannot comment on Speakeasy while I am in a working relationship with them." Once you sign the contract, stop writing about them. End of story, as you have instantly freed yourself from any issues of credibility.

I have proved that "giving me a book" does not stop me from "raking your muck" by giving an example where serious muck was raked, that no one else would touch.

What proof? If you have an example where you acted critically (or even impartially), I'd love to see it.

What you keep pointing to was merely providing Speakeasy a nice opportunity to do some spin. Instead of Adam having to track down everyone who had read that email, you lobbed up a nice opportunity for Adam to publically dismiss it. You gave Adam the last word on all the "hard issues", and happily published his PR evasions. You didn't press, and haven't since.

Did you follow up with Grafiksismik? Did you make any effort to give it any weight beyond another question for Adam to spin? Or once Adam had taken his swing at the pinata, were you done with the story?

Here's the chronology:
1) You publish Adam's "sales cutoff, publish online" press release for him, calling him a genius for changing his publishing plan (again) mid-stream.

2) After waves of criticism for that puff-piece, you "hit hard" with an interview that has no other purpose than to allow Adam to respond to critics.

3) When the real news blows up, you go silent.

If I'm the only crackpot that thinks this is what happened, Rich ... why bother? 99.9% of your readers and the industry at large have no idea who I am. But if I'm not the only one who thinks this way, maybe you need to consider the phrase "percieved conflict of interest".

Rich Johnston said...

a) I made it very clear in the column that I had a comic coming out. Perhaps you missed it.

b) I "raked Speakeasy's muck" by printing serious allegations that no one else would. And, as with every publisher I do that to, I gave them the chance to respond. a right to reply. And yes, I followed up. No further comments were given, on or off the record. And a right to reply is just that.

c) I did not run a press release, I broke a story. Didn't call him a genius, but made reference to the "Smartest Man" tag he's had.

Waves of criticism? Couple of blogs and message boards. And responding to critics - that's a good thing! Surely better than to slag someone off and leave that uniformed opinion hanging.

When the real news blows up, the column had been written. As I've said before, as you had to correct on this very blog entry when you suggested otherwise.

Rich Johnston said...

"To be, is to be perceived"