POZ Perspective: The Culture Of “First”

by Zack Zarrillo - Jan 28, 2013


If you dug past the excitement, it was easy to see that there was outrage over PropertyOfZack breaking the news that Fall Out Boy would be reuniting this past Friday. Demands were made for us to reveal our sources and disappointment oozed out of those who would have preferred for the announcement to come straight from the horse’s mouth. 

Good friend to the site, Adam Pfleider, who is a freelance writer and works for Sargent House, took the time to write up an article about The Culture of “First” in the current world journalism, and we decided to run it as a Perspective. Give it a read below and let us know your thoughts!

Late in the day on Friday, Zack Zarrillo, a colleague and close friend of mine, posted the news that Fall Out Boy would be reuniting in some capacity in the coming year. He had his “trusted sources,” and had no problems standing by his announcement. Other music publications picked up on the story, but would not cite Zarrillo’s website, PropertyOfZack, which broke the news first. 

Zarrillo claims — and I trust him — that he has credible sources to back this up. So for him to put his neck and website through the guillotine of credibility, he’s certainly not going to pull a SupJustin.

There are two sides of “blame” to this story that some see and don’t see. That’s something that I’ve understood over time. In my first week of working for a label, I was now informed that I also “work for the C.I.A.,” and as the old story goes, that “loose lips sink ships.” Whether it is PropertyOfZack or Rolling Stone or the New York Times, it is a publication’s duty to report the news to the public who seek answers. That’s their job, whether it’s a news flash or long form investigative journalism.

But on the other side, when you work on planning a tour or putting together an announcement of headliners for a festival, you can’t really tell anyone on the side, especially if they are connected to a publication. I’m not saying that certain people can’t be trusted, but we live in a culture of “first” when it comes to sending and receiving information and news through the Internet. 

Print journalism hasn’t died out, and many people still watch the evening news or keep CNN or Fox News on in the background while they work. But we live at a time of “if and when it hits the Web, it’s news and it must be true.” In the past few years, there’s certainly a blurry line between reporting on that news in true journalistic fashion and writing sensational headlines and leads to garner more hits and viewership. In the contemporary realm of music journalism, the fact is that anyone can start a publication through Tumblr or Blogspot or whatever. It’s a time when viewers need to take any information given to them with a grain of salt and multiple publications.

To “break news” has always been a “first” thing that pulses through most publications’ life streams. Moving that ethic to online outlets puts that motion into hyperdrive. You want to be the link posted to someone’s social feed that gets hits, which therefore means better ad rates and so on. Right? 

While no one really knows how this ad thing works - I mean, it’s not like a lot of writers are getting paid - credibility of “trusted sources” is tested by later official announcements. The threats and social feed call-outs that Zarrillo received on Friday shouldn’t be looked at as a one-time thing. Because one, this isn’t the first time this has happened; and two, this won’t be the last.

"First" culture is nothing new. It all lends itself back to the counter-culture movement and being in the "know." While concrete evidence has shown that the social and psychological paradigm has been bought and sold for years, in the last decade the Internet has sped that process up with YouTube hits, album leaks and blogs that are apparently more hip on specific subjects that seem to matter. Within it all, there’s the "first" person to get to hear something the rest of the public hasn’t. It gives them this delusional feeling that they’re somewhat important, for whatever reason.

Let me tell you about the other side of things that Zarrillo, my old home of AbsolutePunk, and any other publication with credibility out there don’t understand: there are a lot of people who try to do something special for these types of “announcements” and “roll-outs.” When things like the early leak of information on Friday happen, all the work on the other side goes to shit. I’m not condemning Zarrillo or any of my former colleagues for their actions — it’s their job when they find out — but there is another side to all of this. It’s a side that I now am on. A short month later, I better understand it.

I’m not saying publications with credibility and respect shouldn’t break news as it comes to them. I’m just once again thinking about the non-bastardization of something I hold close. Gone are the days of going to a store on Tuesday and being excited about purchasing a record and then rushing home to play it ten times over. Gone are the days of learning about a cult band from your friends that only a minority group of people knew about and deemed special. Gone are the days when everyone got that thought-out announcement at the same time. The Internet has ruined excitement, just as it has helped teased the public and fill the gap of nothingness between the planning and bullhorn of news.

Zarrillo did his job on Friday. I don’t agree with what he did, but he didn’t do it any differently than any other publication would have. Fuck, ESPN does it all the time. The New York Times does it all the time. But I think it’s a larger discussion that should take place between the people behind the scenes about keeping information like this locked down, and the people on the other side starting to gain trust when that said information leaks out just a bit.

The actions of Zarrillo and his publication are nothing new to the way news sometimes works. I think it should just be another red flag to the industry trying to do their job, but keeping their mouths closed a bit tighter to the world around them. It should also be a lesson to the press side that waiting for the quality of the story through proper channels and time would make for better trust among the two sides of any industry: film, sports and politics included. Courtesy goes along way. 

No one likes a bragging douchebag in or outside the club. Maybe I’m just older and like listening to a story or conversation. Quips are for kids.


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