Elevated Content – Yahoo News and the New PR Order

Image from The Baffler

Image from The Baffler

 

Fascinating look inside Yahoo News from the former editor. It’s a breathtaking display of the dismantling of the idea of “news” at the hands of our new tech overlords. Nothing but a Brand Approved nightmare of corporate synergies.

This concept of “elevated marketing content” is important because it is the soup du jour pretty much everywhere now. Everything is filtered through a PR lens – the idea of news is not only strange to them it is dangerous.┬áConsider a story I once did on haunted doll flick Annabelle – my original pitch on that story was to get the “story behind the film” and reveal the true tale of Annabelle, at least according to whomever I could get roped in to talk on record for the piece.

Turns out nobody was willing to talk about it due to a bitter lawsuit going down between the Warren family biographer Gerald Brittle, Conjuring producer Tony DeRosa Grund and Warner Brothers/New Line. Brittle accused the WB of essentially ripping off his work – The Demonologist – to mine stories for a series of Warren-family supernatural thrillers.

Everybody was lawyered up, nobody would talk to me. Even Warren’s son and holder of their estate was unwilling to go on record about anything.

I was on the set of The Conjuring for a press junket and I recall meeting Tony DeRosa. It was from him that I think the junket first heard that there was a dispute going on over the naming of the film. The Conjuring was the title Wan preferred apparently but DeRosa thought calling it The Warren Files so they could set up a series made more sense since, as he claimed that day, they had “hundreds and hundreds” of case files of the Warrens paranormal investigations. He envisioned a franchise being born.

Tony DeRosa-Grund

When The Conjuring became a smash hit, creating the current “summer horror blockbuster” trend, it looks like WB agreed a series was a great idea. They just didn’t want to have to cut in Brittle or DeRosa anymore so they cut those guys loose and got to work on more Warren films. Based mostly on stories from Brittle’s book.
Typical dirty Hollywood stuff, but interesting. When we eventually worked the story around to just recalling the “real” tale of Annabelle as told in The Demonologist I wanted to make sure we touched on the lawsuit. I thought it was interesting news and it would account for why we couldn’t get anyone to talk to us.
The Demonologist

The Demonologist

Every version I wrote featured some mention of the lawsuit and some included the tidbit about the Warren Files title conflict going back to The Conjuring, which I thought was an interesting piece of the story and could be verified by my notes and the recordings of another writer on the same junket. The version in print has zero mention of any of it.
Now I’m not saying this happened because the publication in question didn’t want to ruffle feathers with Warner PR people because I don’t honestly know why it happened. I never saw the copy they went to print with before it went to print (alarming in itself). I never got to ask where it went or make a case for it or anything. It was just gone. For whatever reason it was deemed less important than the relative puff-piece retelling of the Annabelle legend that the rest of the article was but you can tell here what would be the Elevated Marketing and what would be news content, it’s obvious. So is it a coincidence that my story fractured along the same fault lines? You can draw whatever conclusions you like from that I suppose, but reading this account of things at Yahoo news and seeing the corporate PR takeover happen there I guess I’d have to ask why you think those same forces aren’t at work in whatever media you do happen to consume?
Rue Morgue #149 where my Annabelle story appeared.

Rue Morgue #149 where my Annabelle story appeared.

Posted in From the notebook, Journalism.