Why Zap2it's 'Save FOX's 'Lone Star' Campaign' is absolutely appropriate

lonestar-promo.jpgAs I was perusing my Twitter account Saturday (Sept. 25), I was flagged to an op-ed blog post (Thank you @theanticritic) which posed the question: " Is 'Zap2it's' Save FOX 'Lone Star' Campaign appropriate?"

As my rockstar editorial staff here at Zap2it can vouch, I'm definitely never one to back down from an intelligent, healthy debate over just about anything. Quite contrarily, I'm the polar opposite and welcome them any and every day, especially when the argument pertains to television, pop culture and politics. So I felt compelled to answer the question posed by this particular post as well as clarify our site's editorial policy. Both because the question asked is an absolutely valid and sensible one and well, it's about 190 degrees in Los Angeles at the moment so I'm avoiding going outside and quite comfortable sitting in the A/C tapping these keys on my Mac.

That being said, I will start by stating that I agree with the writer's sentiments in pointing out we've hit a point in media where the lines for entertainment journalists at times are increasingly blurry and ambiguous. Social media and the multi-platform distribution of content and reporting has absolutely changed and evolved journalism and it will continue to every year.

But in the case of our fan campaign in support of FOX's "Lone Star," those lines are not blurred but actually as clear cut as they can be and I'll explain why. As the article points out, "this campaign isn't any horrible breach of journalistic ethics" but that there's just an overall "uneasiness" about the campaign.

First to clarify, Zap2it "the company" is not responsible for the campaign. Rather Zap2it's editorial staff -- consisting of editors, reporters and bloggers -- are responsible. We're merely reiterating and highlighting through a Facebook and Twitter campaign our staff's choice of " Lone Star" as this fall TV season's No. 1 must-watch new show. In a nutshell, the campaign is a super-sized tune-in alert and a virtual viewing party invitation for the show this Monday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The only difference between the "Lone Star" effort in comparison to all of our site's daily and weekly tune-in alert and preview blog posts and reports is that we've given this more promotional support than some of those.

Zap2it's editorial mission and motto has always been and will continue to be that we're the news, buzz and tune-in site "for TV fanatics by TV fanatics." Certainly, the "fanatics" who edit, write and report on this staff are indeed journalists (some of the best, if I might add as proud papa of this team), but they also review TV shows, commentate and write opinionated analysis in addition to original interviews with TV stars, showrunners and the like.

In my opinion, it's a Jurassic "old media" policy both economically and strategically to refuse to believe that entertainment media can't wear multiple hats while still upholding sound journalist policies, guidelines and standards, especially on the web. However, as former Deputy Entertainment Editor of Los Angeles Times Entertainment online I understand all too well the apprehension over crossing the line between "critic" and "reporter." But we've set extremely clear guidelines for a win-win solution at Zap2it, in reference to this dated age-old debate. After all, last time I checked the calendar it was 2010 not 1975. I may be in the minority as an editorial director with my stance here, but I'm a firm believer in the "gray couch" in life. There's creative solutions for the crossroads we face in journalism as it continues to evolve and we're applying them here at Zap2it every day.

For starters, regular readers of Zap2it will notice on our site when a staff editor or reporter/blogger writes an opinion piece about a TV show or celebrity, it's clearly labeled that it's opinion with "View From The Box" like this post you're reading now. However, any original reported news story on this site is governed through the exact same editorial standards and guidelines that any Tribune Company newspaper site or broadcast outlet is governed by. Yes, two sources, seeking independent confirmation and comment on all stories even the ones we don't break etc., etc.

Additionally, Zap2it does not employ a "TV critic" per se, because as far as I'm concerned any of the 10 people employed on the Zap2it editorial staff are well-equipped, extremely knowledgeable TV "experts" more than capable of writing a critical review of a show (or as we call them, "Z-Views") along with the best of the seasoned, veteran journos and critics out there.

So how do we remedy this particular situation since some media types shudder just thinking of my mere mention of this? For those who could potentially perceive "blurred lines" with the aforementioned practice, we solve this by never permitting a reporter/staff editor to review a TV Show which is on their particular TV show beat sheet. I absolutely agree it would be inappropriate for the same individual to review the same TV show of which they're fostering and managing the relationship with that respective show's publicist and producers, as well as conducting on-set interviews with cast and attending and covering events to further strengthen the relations with the shows on their beats.  

Zap2it launching a tune-in campaign to watch a show that us as both TV experts and fans firmly believe deserves more time to find an audience is hardly crossing any line or breaching any "code." I'd call "Lone Star" this season's "Friday Night Lights" in my opinion and "FNL" certainly garnered tons of critical acclaim and was continually gushed over by an avalanche of TV journos more often than other TV shows in a concerted effort to help save the quality drama from cancellation.

" Zap2it's Save FOX's 'Lone Star' Campaign" is no different than fellow news publication TV Guide putting a series on the cover of their magazine as "The Best Show You're Not Watching But Should" or Entertainment Weekly giving similar treatment to a TV series in their magazine and on their website as part of a "Must-Watch" or "Must-List" cover feature. 

Zap2it curated and aggregated "Lone Star" reviews and content from multiple TV media publications such as THR, Variety, Hitfix, TV Squad, et. al. to present an array of opinions from around the web, so the Facebook page itself presents an impartial, objective and agnostic stance in addition to us, the Zap2it staff, picking the show as our No. 1 Must-Watch.

Clearly if Zap2it "the company" was writing a check ourselves or receiving a fat check to run a campaign to save a FOX show, or if we were organizing the campaign on behalf of FOX itself then we'd have a huge problem on our hands with a breach of editorial ethics. But that is not the case nor would ever be the case. An entertainment news and buzz site starting an unsolicited campaign in effort to mobilize fans and potential viewers because we're passionate about quality television shows is hardly a crime of any sort. I can remember this past year AOL's Popeater running their own campaign to win "Friday Night Lights" Zach Gilford an Emmy nomination. Was that inappropriate too? Hardly.

Chalk it up to our inner TV fanboy and fangirl enthusiasm, but I seriously don't think using our voices through Zap2it, which is a television news and tune-in site telling TV viewers and fanatics "what to watch, where to watch it. and WHY?" is inappropriate on any level.

My advice: Grab a comfy chair and watch the premiere episode of FOX's "Lone Star" now if you haven't already and you'll understand our passion.



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Photo credit: "Lone Star" star James Wolk. (FOX)