DC Fox 5 Gets Sensationlist on Comic Books

On their news last night Washington, DC’s Fox 5 had a sensationalist story, Relaunched Comics Using Sex and Violence To Sell, on comic books and how they’ve “darkened.”  Citing a “fact” from an “expert” they claimed comics could be harmful to children and these teen comic are “fictionalized Playboy for kids at its worst” than the wholesome comics of yesteryear.  Ignoring other forms of media, the story is absolutely slanted with tidbits like this:

“They more or less darkened the characters up. Today, they introduce a lot more reality into it like homosexuality, adultery, all that stuff. It’s in the books now,” said comic collector Joe Blackwell.

They also claim this change in tone caused the recent outrage, over the DC reboot, ignoring the fact there’s numerous things fans were angry with.  The renumbering, jettisoning of continuity, sexualization of characters and general changes all were raised.  No one thing has rallied everyone against the changes at DC and sales have increased post changes.

Critics worry the once family friendly genre has gone too far. Psychologists point out the overexposure to sex and violence for young children can encourage aggression.

“I think too many kids would be put in harm’s way or at risk,” Bernstein said.

Numerous studies on this issue have been cited bv the “think of the children crowd.”  The idea that “media is harmful” has been rebutted again and again.  The Bible, sports and numerous other activities cause the same reactions that playing video games or reading a comic elicit.  It’s junk science at best to cite this and negligence and lying at it’s worst.

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This story caused the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to issue a warning on “how to manage a media attack.”

  • now Your Rights. You control the media’s access to your store, not them. While media people can shoot common spaces not maintained by your store, such as public parking lots and walkways, they cannot enter your store and shoot without permission, and they cannot block access to your store.
  • Develop and Maintain a Media Communications Policy. Whether you’re a sole proprietor with occasional fill-in help, or a full-service chain, every comic book, manga and graphic novel retailer should develop and maintain a media communications policy. This policy should be part of the employee handbook and should be revisited at regular meetings. Your media policy should provide employees with a brief company overview; explain a chain of command for who in your organization is authorized to speak with the media; explain circumstances where cameras may want to enter your store and who is authorized to let them in; and provide general guidelines for how to respond to media inquiries and camera crews. This PDF from theheights-planning.com is a good starting place if you need to develop a new policy.
  • Designate a Spokesperson. Each organization should designate a spokesperson to be the authorized contact point for all media inquiries. This can be the owner, manager, or a well-spoken staffer. This person’s job will be to put your company’s best face forward. She or he should possess a strong understanding of your company and its mission and be able to present a positive public image about the work you do and the products you sell. All media inquiries should be directed to this person, whether those come in via social media, email, telephone, or in person.
  • Know Your Community & Product Mix. It’s critical that your spokesperson possesses a strong working knowledge of your community, customers, and product mix so that he or she is able to anticipate and adequately address concerns brought up in the course of any interview. As seen in the story from Bleeding Cool, a common angle the media will exploit when covering comic books is that they’re placing kids in danger. Being able to speak intelligently about the breadth of customers who use your store and the diversity of material you offer for each type of customer is helpful in shutting down these stories. In this case, your store should be your best asset. If a reporter takes issue with the content of a particular comic that you sell, this is your opportunity to explain that like movies or TV or any other entertainment medium, there are comics for all sorts of audiences and this is just one of the many comic books that you sell to its appropriate audience. By knowing your community, showcasing the breadth of comics that you sell, and highlighting the diversity of customers you serve, you can anticipate and defuse common attack stories.
  • Be Courteous, Be Professional, and Stick to Your Policies. Staff and spokespeople alike should always maintain a high level of professional decorum, and this is especially true with media. Always extend the same courtesy to media as you would to your best customers and vendors. It’s important for all staff members to understand that being courteous and professional doesn’t mean being unnecessarily permissive. A reporter’s job is to get the story, and they may provide you with positive or negative feedback to get you to respond to them more immediately. Your job is to promote a positive image of your organization and its customers. Always be courteous and always stick to your policies when dealing with media people.
  • Take Control of the Situation. You’re under no obligation to drop everything the moment a reporter or camera person arrives at your store. If you’re an employee, you should refer them to your store spokesperson or manager. If you’re an authorized spokesperson for your company, it’s your right to decide whether or not you want to speak to the media and when and how you want to do so. If a camera crew or a reporter shows up unannounced, politely asking them to set up an appointment to come back and speak with your spokesperson is a request they have to respect. If the news outlet is being difficult or unreasonable about your desire to schedule an interview, don’t be afraid to decline to participate. Declining to comment should be your last resort, because it doesn’t allow you to provide your message, but it is a sensible option in instances where the news organization is behaving unreasonably. Don’t be intimidated by the cameras. It’s your store that comes first, not their story.
  • Put Your Best Face Forward. Once your spokesperson decides to grant an interview with the news media, be sure to be at your best. Be personable, be presentable, and ensure that your store conveys the same qualities. Always speak clearly, speak softly, speak on point, and be aware. Whether speaking for print or radio, and especially when speaking on video, always take the time you need to craft your best answer. If you need to start over, start over. It’s important to always ensure that anything you say on camera reflects the message you want to communicate. So, take the time you need to convey the message you want to send, be calm, and speak to that message. While you can’t control what media crews will do with the footage they take, you can can control your own presentation, so be sure to put your best face forward.
  • If You Carry Adult Content, Have A Policy. If you’re carrying adult material, you should already have a policy for its sale and display that is informed by a thorough understanding of your community’s standards. This policy should be spelled out in your employee manual and reinforced with training and periodic meetings with your staff. Your store spokesperson should be able to articulate this policy to the media and public and explain how it is consistent with the standards of your community.
  • Don’t Take The Bait.Hostile interviewers will sometimes try to elicit negative reactions or get you to repeat phrases that can be taken out of context and used to support a message separate from the one you would convey for your store. Other common tactics include asking you to respond to yes or no questions that they can use in the edit suite or to ask ambush questions about a statement that’s indefensible, hostile or untrue. If you need to pause to recover from the ambush, then take the time, but not awkwardly. Try to avoid getting flustered or giving a negative reaction shot. Stay polite, but take control of the situation. When faced with an indefensible statement, don’t engage in a way that can be taken out of context. Instead, return to the facts about your business and the points you want to convey. Always be aware that anything you say can be taken out of context, so remain calm, never lose your cool, and don’t take the bait.
  • Accentuate the Positive. One of the best ways to spin away from a negative story is to emphasize the positive things that your store does for the community. An effective spokesperson will always be talking about community involvement, such as working with your chamber of commerce or participating in local charity efforts, team athletics, library programs, or reading groups. Community involvement, beyond being a positive point to talk about when the press is around, is also a way to build strong roots and support in the community so if a problem does occur, there are friends that will speak up for you.
  • What To Do If You’ve Been Treated Unfairly. If you have an issue with how an outlet has conducted itself, do some basic research on that outlet online. Most major newspapers and news outlets have `Contact Us’ channels that will put you in touch with the right people to complain or comment on their outlet’s behavior.  Some media organizations will also have formal complaint procedures.

Comic books like all media are protected under the first amendment.  They, like the rest of modern day media, have ratings and describe the contents contained within.  The consumer can be informed beforehand on what they’re purchasing and even have the ability to flip through the comic before spending their money.  And, like all other media, parents should be aware what their kids are consuming.  That’s the easiest way to “protect” the children.  Parents should be doing their job and duty and know what their children ingest in every way.

Do I see this issue going anywhere?  Maybe.  It’s the usual Fox hyperbolic journalism that ignores facts and reality and focuses on small details.  We need to call out Fox on their hypocrisy.  They themselves have weathered similar attacks over their television programming (the Simpsons, Family Guy, so many trashy reality shows) and News. Corp. (Fox’s parent company) owns the website IGN which covers comic books, video games and pop culture, exactly what the Fox news division often attacksSo, they profit from what they condemn.

We as fans, blogs, creators need to speak up more to raise awareness of the positive and combat this over the top attack.