Buzz, Hiss: Striking the Strike

TVWeek's James Hibberd: Rated

Published on .

It's been nine days since this blog went on strike.

More than a week of not covering the Great Writer Walkout of 2007. TelevisionWeek has hit the major strike shifts, but for this space, I've sat at my keyboard, arms folded, refusing to cross a self-created picket line to weigh in on the amazing amount of news that purportedly has occurred.

What's been missed:

The WGA and AMPTP took a break from the table. Employers offered $130 million. Writers declared the $130 million "a massive rollback." Writers demanded $151 million in non-Monopoly dollars. Networks started airing repeats. Parties returned to the table. More YouTube propaganda videos debuted. The AMPTP assured they're not playing "a zero-sum game." Viewers skipped the repeats and strike videos to gag at "2 Girls 1 Cup." Writers picketed studios with their dogs. AMPTP leaders say they're losing patience.

Here's a quote from a news outlet detailing the exciting negotiation table action:

"The writers proposed a three-year plan worth $151 million, which begins with $33 million in residuals the first year then escalates to $50 million the second and $68 million in the third—presumably coinciding with an uptick in media usage. All told, the guild said, the amount represents a 3.9 percent increase in residuals."

Where's this from? Variety? The Wall Street Journal?

No. E! Online.

Which is depressing. We want "School's Out For Preggers Nicole" from our E! Online, not the latest in blindingly numeric new media residual payment disputes. It's as if the entire entertainment media has been dragged into a neighbor's messy and complicated tax audit. (By and by, here's the lead from that item: "Nicole Richie isn't just too cool for school. She's also too pregnant for it—yes).

This blog's recent strike-coverage strike also stems from an increasing annoyance with the perfectly natural motives of each side's media efforts. Every day that the WGA and AMPTP remain at the table—but without a deal—their official statements and unofficial leaks are designed to push the other guy to act in their favor. The WGA says the AMPTP is being unreasonable, we report it. The next day, there's a slight increase in pressure on the AMPTP to stop being so damn unreasonable, whether warranted or not.

The entertainment media, of course, serves such PR purposes every time we magically turn a press release into news. Our competitive interest in our respective beats allow us to glide over such worrisome scratches on our mental discs. We're not being played, we shrug, as long as we genuinely believe that press release is newsworthy. And what could be more newsworthy than the writers strike—arguably the biggest entertainment story of the year?

But then ... after awhile ... listening to months of buzz and hiss from the WGA and AMPTP begins to feel like you're on a lifeboat in the open sea.

You get rocked one way, then the other. Each wave with the goal of nudging your coverage to more effectively nudge the other party right back. The numbers on the negotiating table in the current round of talks may ebb and flow. But let's face it: All is written in erasable ink until there's a deal.

Oh, and one of the latest headlines? The AMPTP has hired an expensive new PR team. Well...

Suppose that makes sense from a public image perspective. But when you're adrift in the ocean of strike news, it's hard not to feel like it's a massive rollback.
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