Annals of bad journalism: Tim Nasson (again!)

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Last August, I told you about Tim Nasson, a movie junketeer and entertainment writer who had been engaging in some fishy journalistic practices by making up celebrity quotes. He would take what the people actually said, paraphrase it into his own words — and then still put quotation marks around it, as if it were their actual words. That’s a no-no, and I called him on it. Hooray for me.

Nasson, whose site is called Wild About Movies, has now moved on to a different violation. He’s quoting people accurately now — a little too accurately, considering he’s using interviews that he didn’t actually attend.

He says the studios will sometimes send tapes to junket whores like himself who couldn’t attend (or who weren’t invited). That claim is still awaiting independent verification, but even if it’s true, it doesn’t explain why Nasson starts the articles by claiming he met with the interviewee in person. If you weren’t there, why lie to the reader and say you were? In fact, why run the interview at all when the exact same interview can be found on the sites of all the people who WERE there?

Nasson has just posted an article called “Movie Junkets Exposed” that is, considering its source, a masterwork of chutzpah. We start here:

While some websites and newspapers would have you believe they are bringing you an ‘exclusive’ interview with an actor or director, the fact is, that 99.9999% of the interviews you read in any newspaper … or on any website, are from ROUNDTABLE interviews at the junket.

That’s true: Many websites do try to make it sound like their roundtable interviews were actually one-on-one exclusives. Nasson should know, because he does it on his site all the time. In fact, that’s why he first came to my attention. In my column “I Was a Junket Whore,” I wrote about an instance in which Nasson had done this:

Let me jump forward in time a couple days to quote what one of the Web site writers posted on his site’s gossipy blog regarding this roundtable with Stone: “[I] just finished up lunch with the director — a plate of fruit and cheese, and crackers — none of which Stone touched, he just wanted his coffee — and learned that Stone has decided to release a director’s director’s cut of ‘Alexander.'” “Lunch with the director” makes it sound like he sat one-on-one with Stone and chatted over lunch, doesn’t it? And I’m sure that was the point: to make it sound like this guy had lunch with Oliver Stone, to impress you. When in fact this guy shared a table with a half-dozen other people, and the only one having lunch was Stone.

Later in the “Movie Junkets Exposed” article, Nasson does admit (in parentheses) that he engages in this practice himself sometimes.

His next revelation about the junket business goes like this:

Worst of all, sometimes the studios send press who had not been invited to a junket tapes from the junket and instruct the writer to use the tapes (generics, as they are called in the trade), after transcribing them, as if he or she were at the junket personally. Warner Bros., Dreamworks and Paramount are current three studios most repsonsible for this reprehensible practice.

He doesn’t acknowledge that he is one of the writers who use these tapes to trick readers into thinking they were actually there. (I’m still not convinced this is a regular practice. What IS common, I know, is that junketeers who were present will give or sell transcripts to people who weren’t.) In fact, notice whom he calls “reprehensible”: the studios, for giving out tapes. The writers who use them, apparently, are blameless.

His next shocking revelation about entertainment writers:

And, finally, many lazy websites can’t even take the time to create a story based on the day they spent with the talent – they just cut and paste the transcribed interview from the roundtable and post it on their site, without any background information about the actor or director.

Not Nasson, though. He would never just cut and paste an interview without giving background on the actor. No sir! He at least goes to the trouble of copying the person’s bio from Wikipedia — never giving credit to its source, of course, passing it off as his own work instead. (The technical term for that is “plagiarism,” by the way.) A few examples:

Wanda Sykes; compare with Wikipedia.
Anthony Hopkins; compare with Wikipedia. (The Hopkins interview — posted under Nasson’s pseudonym “Chad Michaels” — has since been removed from his site. The link goes to the archived version.)
Queen Latifah”; compare with Wikipedia.

And so on.

My favorite part, though — and a hint at Nasson’s craziness, which we’ll discuss in detail later — is the message that is included at the end of the e-mails he sends to his mailing list. (I’m not sure how I came to be on this list, but it’s how I found out about his “Movie Junkets Exposed” article.)

In the place where a normal “to unsubscribe from this mailing list, click here” message should be, he has this:

Do you think you’re above and beyond WILD ABOUT MOVIES? You agreed to our TERMS AND CONDITIONS when you entered your e-mail address to sign up for promotions. But, you might want to OPT OUT – Well, OPT OUT – But, please, don’t ever come back to our site again, or we will block your IP Address, so you won’t ever, ever be able to access our site. And trust us, our TECH guys are that good!




“You can drop out of our mailing list if you want to. FINE! BE THAT WAY! But don’t ever come back to our site again, you stupid jerk! We hate you!”

What’s up with that?