Pardon me if you already saw me bitching about this on Twitter earlier, but I'm really steamed about an NPR story that ran Wednesday. Beth Accomando presented "In Horror Flicks, The Cell Phone Always Dies First," a piece that explores the different types of mobile-phone related drama that recur in horror cinema. Aside from her opening example of The Human Centipede, all of the instances she named -- and accompanying audio snippets -- are pulled from my No Signal supercut. (Note, 2012 is mentioned in the conclusion, but that's a counterpoint about service working, and obviously would have had no place in my video.) complaint does not regard crediting, but I am never mentioned in her piece. In fact, the piece is not about a supercut, but about the information found within my work. It is not until Accomando is done presenting her (i.e. my) case that the host promises, "And you can see all the ways filmmakers kill off cell phones at our website..." If I weren't the one who created it, or, like, aware of what the hell is going on with the Internet, I would have thought they were pimping a montage of their very own.
Look, I understand that putting things on the Internet often amounts to giving them up to the world. Any asshole can embed the YouTube you created without so much as a reference, or rip and reupload it to his own account. However, I did not expect an NPR writer to be any asshole. Mostly, I'm shocked at the creative bankruptcy and level of disrespect here, and I think it comes down to epistemological bias. If Accomando were to pitch a piece that consisted of some bullet points culled from a published (print) review or feature, I suspect she'd be laughed out of her editor's office. Legal might be called. However, there were no apparent concerns in her regurgitating the information in what amounts to a video essay, which I intentionally organized to present the points that Accomando verbalized (seriously, if this piece took Accomando more than 15 minutes to transcribe, she put too much time into it).
And as though it needed to be verbalized anyway! I could have written about this subject. Hell, I could have taken to the airwaves or set up a soap box in the subway to rant about horror cliches to disinterested commuters, but instead, I tailored my medium to my message because DUH*. It's condescending to re-purpose my work in this fashion, because it implies that I didn't say it right the first time and/or that people were too stupid to get it. Considering the brain graveyard that YouTube tends to be, 300,000 views can't be wrong.
I get that if you haven't spent months rifling through films and fitting clips from them together, you probably don't understand the work that goes into making supercuts. You might think they just spring up like mushrooms, if you're whimsical. But what I don't get is how one supposed thinker rips off another in the name of discourse. Accomando lost me there. So yeah, I guess this is about credit, after all.
*I realize I may sound like I'm verging on the hypocritical here, as I converted my I'm Not Here To Make Friends supercut into a This American Life piece, but then, that piece discussed the concept more thoroughly, made several points not in the video and discussed the creative process that went into the supercut. I wouldn't just regurgitate. I respect myself too much for that.
(Much appreciation to Rebecca M., for giving me the heads-up on this.)
Update: Credit achieved. Only online, obviously, since the story has already aired, but as we all know, online is better than nothing.
Update 2: There's now an editor's note at the end of the story that reads, in part: "An earlier version of this story should have credited the work of pop culture blogger Rich Juzwiak. Juzwiak's YouTube video compilation of movie scenes, which is embedded on this Web page, was among the sources that journalist Beth Accomando used in her reporting and influenced the selection of clips used in our story." So that's nice and fair. We're all figuring out this media stuff together...
Update 3: Salon takes on the story...with sexy results. (And by "sexy," I mean "supposedly coincidental.")