Carroll: An obit for spoiler alerts
October 8, 2013
"Thank you asshat!!!"
So read the subject line of an email I received last week that was full of spicy little zingers.
"Thank you for being an pretentious ignorant douchebag journalist. You have joined the ranks and respect of your peers and constituents. I'm sorry for the derogatory comments but with a headline like 'Walter Hartwell White, 1961-2013', It made me extremely angry and disappointed with your s—ty journalism. I'm sure you don't care nor have any respect for your audience because your an opinion writer. And that's fine. But even IMBD writes opinions too and they warn their readers of spoiler alerts but noooo, not you.
"I guarantee everybody in the valley does not have cable nor have time for it, but we do like to use netflix and rent DVDs.
"Now, thanks to you we know that Walter White dies in Breaking Bad. Thank you!! You f—–g prick. I use to enjoy reading your commentary column. Now I will forever avoid. I should just avoid the aspen times entirely.
"Eat a d— you inconsiderate f—.
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"All best wishes
I've fielded worse complaints than that one, but being that this email came from my sweet and lovely mom, this one really hurt.
Evidently my mother was speaking for residents of the entire Roaring Fork Valley in regard to their television-viewing habits, and the obituary I wrote last week for Walt White apparently unhinged a few readers because the obit revealed the outcome of the popular "Breaking Bad" series, which ran its season finale Sept. 29.
The season finale was a pop-culture news event, and for those behind on the series who thought the entire world would stop spinning for them, that's not how it works.
Imagine prefacing Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners meeting coverage with spoiler alerts in order to pander to all of those people who DVR the meetings on GrassRoots Television. And the next time a movie like "Titanic" or "Lincoln" comes out, we could warn readers that the movie review would reveal the outcome.
Stewart Oksenhorn, The Aspen Times' arts and entertainment editor, said he rarely issues spoiler alerts when he covers movies and television. But he's also mindful not to reveal the outcome in many instances.
"If I feel there's a big surprise, I tend not to touch it," he said. "It's a rare occasion that I do a spoiler alert. But the writer has to be sensitive. You still have to be aware that everybody is on a different pace."
Social media certainly do not help keep viewers in the dark. Nor does the constant barrage of online blogs, articles and tweets. Trying to get through the next month without knowing of White's demise could be likened to taking a swim and expecting to stay dry.
"It's probably harder now than ever (to keep a movie's or series' outcome under wraps)," Oksenhorn said. "But the readers and consumers also should know that the bigger it is, the more people are talking about it."
The day we start basing our news coverage — or commentary writing, as was the case with the White obituary — on people's television-viewing habits, it's probably time we find another line of work.
So, Mom, while I forgive you for that unnecessarily surly yet lively tirade — and since when did you stop proofreading your emails and start cursing like a drunken psychopath? — we'll just have to disagree on this one. After all, blood is thicker than spoiler alerts. That's my hope, at least.
Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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