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P.R. Woes: When Access Isn’t Worth It

It looks like the connection PR Collaborative and FishbowlDC once shared is up in flames.

Renee Tsao, a publicist with the D.C-based media relations company, called this morning to vent about my “mean” post on the screening of The Paperboy– the screening she invited me to attend Monday. Oh, and to inform me FishbowlDC is no longer invited to attend her screenings.

Yesterday I wrote the “7 Things You Better Know Before Seeing (Or Not Seeing) ‘The Paperboy.’”  In the post I described the film as “the nastiest, crudest, most disturbing movie we’ve seen this year.” That remains true, even after having seen Tyler Perry‘s latest Madea movie.

The description “crossed the line,” said Tsao. She said she didn’t expect everyone to enjoy the absolute horror of a film, but said she expected news media to “at least” be respectful when writing about it. And calling a woman “you bitch” while she masturbates is respectful (happened in the movie)? She also said it wasn’t my “job” to review movies.

First, my job. Since when is it Tsao’s job to tell me what mine is? At FishbowlDC I cover the media in D.C. It just so happens movies are a medium. Second, I’m almost at a loss for words on Tsao describing my post as disrespectful. Almost.

I didn’t write a review, but even if I had, what of it? I actually wrote a warning. The Paperboy was a nightmare projected on an over-sized screen. And not the “scary” kind of nightmare you wake up and feel relieved from before resting your little head. But the kind of nightmare that upon awakening, forces you to turn the lights on in every room and then sit up watching Tony Robbins infomercials at 3 a.m. because you can’t sleep. That’s how foul the movie was.

Tsao complained that none of the “other media” who attended her screening wrote anything like my post. Leaving aside the fact that we’re not “other media,” it should go without saying that DCist and “Yeas and Nays” of the Washington Examiner — both of which attended — aren’t exactly known for peeling back the layers of events they attend. Unless that layer is covered in a Georgetown Cupcake wrapper. Then they’ll peel it off with haste.

Regardless, neither DCist nor Yeas and Nays have write-ups (yet) of The Paperboy. But we did find a review in The Observer. Unsurprisingly, they came away feeling the exact same way I did.

From The Observer:

“For now, avoid at all costs a trash-wallow about sex and inbred Southern racism called The Paperboy. The director is Lee Daniels, who shocked and turned off a sizeable portion of the public three years ago with Precious. Maybe shock for the sake of nothing else is what he stands for, but regardless of what you thought about his disturbing feature debut, it was light years ahead of The Paperboy. This raunchy dreck, cut from the same disposable toilet tissue as the recent trailer-trash creepfest Killer Joe, is a leap downhill from Precious.”

(It’s worth noting that Precious is one of my favorite movies.)

Tsao is under the impression that inviting media to attend her events is a guarantee that she’ll approve of what’s written about them. That’s not the case, at least not with FishbowlDC. Here, we write things as they actually happen, offering an honest impression of what we see. For example, Macy Gray‘s role in The Paperboy was a hit in an otherwise cesspool of a film. That was included in the post.

And so, this is the predicament we, along with many reporters maneuvering the tricky depths of Washington journalism, find ourselves: Maintain relationships with PR people by writing watered-down, lukewarm stories that don’t offend anyone and risk losing access; or write the truth as we see it.

We’ll stick with the latter. Even if that means we don’t get to watch Nicole Kidman urinate on Zac Efron‘s face ever again.

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