ConShark

I no longer write for the San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog. Here’s why.

Dear readers,

I officially quit writing for the San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog on Saturday morning during SDCC.

On Friday morning, blog staff became aware that an unofficial line for Hall H’s Saturday panels had formed behind the convention center. (Everyone is aware that the convention’s policy was that lines for the next day’s programming would not be permitted until after the current day’s programming had ended in the hall. By this logic, lines should not have been permitted for Saturday panels until late Friday.)

The blog chose not to share this information. They did tweet a teaser, saying they had visited people in a “super secret line” and gifted them t-shirts. As a writer for the blog, I was asked not to share this information – to “keep it on the DL” and not “ruin this for them.”

Unofficial Blog staff then joined the unsanctioned line. (Personally, I never had any intention to be in Hall H anytime this weekend, much less during the insanity that is Marvel Saturday. I was in the Indigo Ballroom all day on Friday.) When others brought up the unsanctioned line with security, it is my understanding that blog staff personally advocated for the lines to become sanctioned by security.

Wristbands ran out sometime around midnight. Unofficial Blog staff had been in line since 11am and had A group wristbands.

Although I am reluctant to share private conversations, I believe you should be provided proof, taken from the blog’s private chat room:

(Sunday 6:00pm: I have been asked by the Unofficial Blog to remove these screencaps. As a gesture of goodwill, I have, but if you have questions or concerns please comment or email sarah[at]conshark.com.)

In this photo, taken around noon on Friday, you can see Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Rutz in the “secret” line:

We can argue until we’re blue in the face about whether lines should be allowed this early or whether camping for panels should be allowed. That’s not what I’m concerned with here. I wholeheartedly feel it was extremely unethical for the blog staff to be participating in something like this while intentionally deceiving their readers about the situation. The purpose of being a convention blog is to help attendees have the best con possible, and reporting on major issues at the show is huge part of that. The Unofficial Blog was intentionally silent on this issue simply because it benefited them personally.

I regret toeing the line and not sharing this information with our readers on Friday morning. I stopped writing for the blog (and posting to their Twitter) as soon as this happened on Friday. I officially quit Saturday morning.

Readers, I hope you as well as the blog staff will not misinterpret this as a personal attack but rather understand that I feel compelled to distance myself from activity that I firmly believe is unethical.

I am not advocating that you stop reading or following the Unofficial Blog, as I still believe they can do good work and do work very hard. But I also believe that bloggers with press passes have a responsibility to share all relevant news, not just the news that has no impact on said bloggers.

And so, I will sadly end my SDCC today the same way I ended it last year: on my own. Whether or not you agree with me, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read and understand my position. And I hope you have an excellent end to your con!

Thank you,

Sarah

 

If you feel strongly about the Hall H line issues at this year’s SDCC, I encourage you attend the Talk Back panel today, Sunday 7/26, at 3:30pm in Room 23ABC. Please make sure CCI hears your concerns.

34 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Compleyly agree with every point. Why should the people following the rules get punished? Comic Con has to have rules and the blog shouldn’t be encouraging orhers like this. Very dissapointing.

  • Sarah- It’s unfortunate that you came to your conclusions without understanding the facts of the situation.

    Yes, it is true we coordinated coverage of the “secret” Hall H line amongst the group. And that is me in that picture. If that were the entire story, then we would be guilty as charged. But the conclusions to which you leapt tell a different story – one which you yourself in your pursuit of the truth should have uncovered, if you had only responded to my request to speak yesterday.

    See, the first few people in the “secret” line – which we interviewed – started the line unofficially. They were allowed to sit where they were because it was a public area. Security staff was on hand not to sanction the line, but for crowd control in case more people joined and a mass of people showed up. At that time, there was no assurance those people would be allowed in line at all. And as we quickly learned, there were no less than three more lines being watched by security staff – one by the planters along Hall H, another in front of the convention center, and a third somewhere by the Bayfront. That line by the Bayfront got disbanded because they were not in a public space. We’re unsure if the line in front of the convention center got disbanded, but security said they would disband any line in the way of foot traffic.

    We were also told by security when we got to the first spot that we should not communicate this to the public because of the potential swarm of people it would attract, and then it would surely get disbanded. Dare we post and ruin it for the people dedicated to sacrifice 12+ hours of their convention? Whether you hate the lines or are indifferent, no one is to say how others should be spending their time.

    So yes, I was in that picture when it was taken. After that I left that line and went to investigate the other lines to see what kind of story they were being told, which was the same thing – no line was official, only senior line staff could make a call as to which line went first, if any, or if the lines would even be allowed to continue to congregate. It was thought by all that the line would just open under the tents with no lines taking priority, and it would have resulted in a mad dash by hundreds of attendees with potential injury as it did on Thursday night for the Friday panels.

    Then we got word that a line was on the move by security – not the one I was in, mind you. The other lines disbanded to where we heard the location was – the sidewalk in front of the Hilton. Once the line was moved and the other lines which had been waiting all morning consolidated, we tweeted that it was official at 2:32pm – something Sarah failed to mention in her post:

    https://twitter.com/SD_Comic_Con/status/492784413563166720

    At that point, James got in line and got a wristband. I did not get in line, and I did not get a wristband, as I was just covering the lines to see how the story would unfold. Sarah seems to jump to the conclusion we were withholding information for our own benefit, but had she talked with us to get the entire story, rather than piecing it together from private texts, she would have known

    We know a lot of people hate the lines, we get that. We’ve always said that comes up to who wants it more. If people are willing to get in line at 4pm Thursday for a Saturday panel, who are we to say they should or should not? That just means they want it the most, to give up all of their time to get a seat in Hall H. So should we have tweeted it out and cause a riot of people for the security staff to deal with, despite security telling us to not post any information publicly until it was made official? Should we have tweeted it out and ruined it for the folks who had waited so long in line already? We found those two scenarios would be far more damaging to everyone involved rather than keeping it quiet until we got the all-clear from staff, and allowing the 50 or so people in line to keep their spots.

    What’s most upsetting is that Sarah is guilty of the same thing she is accusing us with – withholding information, or not presenting the complete facts publicly. It’s a shame, especially since she ignored our request to speak and clarify the situation before she wrote this slanderous piece.

    We had a lot of respect for Sarah while she was on the team. We also respect her decision to leave the team, and we wish her good luck with her own endeavors.

    – Jeremy Rutz, Editor-in-chief, The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog

    • What I’ve taken away from your ~explanation is that you in fact DO think that you should be the one to decide if people should be allowed to sacrifice their time by waiting in line. By not tweeting the information immediately, as a news blog should, you took away many fans’ right to make that decision for themselves.

      I personally made it into Hall H, in group B. I lined up before 5pm. My opinion is not based in frustration over missing the panel, it’s based in frustration over the lack of ethics displayed by your organization. Either you’re reporters or you’re regular con-goers. You can’t act as both and you certainly can’t benefit as you withhold information from your readers.

      SDCC officials obviously need to come together and fix this for next year. The fault lies mainly with them. But as reporters, you failed your audience and missed your opportunity to be part of the solution. Instead you chose to benefit from the problem and that will remain highly disappointing.

    • The problem, Jeremy, is that many people (including myself), who were fully prepared to camp out were screwed over by a small amount of selfish people (you and those in the line). It wasn’t because we weren’t dedicated or didn’t want it the most or anti-lining up or not prepared to give up con time. But it was because WE WERE FOLLOWING THE RULES COMIC CON HAD SET UP. Getting in line early in the day and bullying security into making the line official isn’t being better fan who wants it more, it’s screwing over other fans.

      When people line up in an “unofficial” line, there are inherent risks (like disbandment). When people deliberately keep other fans in the dark in order for personal gain, that’s just nasty.

      Yes, I got into Hall H on Saturday. I was in group B – but I know for myself and those around me, we would’ve been willing to line up earlier – you took that choice away and made it unfair. If security hadn’t allowed more people to line up, then none of us could have. And that would’ve been fair too.

    • I respect Sarah’s commitment to her work and her being willing to take a stand based on ethics.

      That being said, I don’t see anything wrong with Jeremy’s approach. What if he did tweet it out? Which line would he have told ppl to go to? Then potentially thousands of ppl show up and create a giant mess for security. On top of that, event staff would know not to trust folks wearing sdcc unofficial blog shirts. If I were in Jeremy’s shoes, I would want to respect and partner with event staff so when I do report, it’s the most accurate info possible, but u need to establish a trusting relationship with them first.

      Hope Sarah will reconsider her perspective. I think the blog folks are operating in good faith.

    • Jeremy, on your Concast podcast live recording from Friday, you said you found “the super secret line” at 9:30 am and called James to say “there’s a line, we need to get in it right now”. You then stayed in line until lunchtime when James came and took your spot until he got his wristband.

      • I know what I said. This is the problem with this whole story. Sarah reacted from a couple of text messages, but never bothered to talk with us to get the whole story. And working with her for months, I would have expected more from her. Thanks for listening to the SDConCast, by the way. 😉

        James arrived to the line I was in so I could leave to find the other one. I stayed so he could bring me my lemonade, as per the text messages. My feet hurt, I wasn’t about to wander around in the heat until he got there. Call me guilty of not wearing shoes. He stayed with the line to coordinate with the staff there on walkie talkies, to get them to make a decision of whether to keep the line or not before it escalated into a scene. I went to the planters in front of Hall H to talk with the security and line management in the tents to coordinate. Heck, there was even one woman by the planters who asked me to move where I was sitting for fear I would cut in line in front of her, when I even told her, “I’m not in line, I just want to sit by the shade and figure out what’s going on. If the line opens, you’re getting ahead of me.” James and I kept in communication via cell. When the line moved and became official, I tweeted and James got in. He was about 150th in line at that time, behind passer-bys who joined as soon as it was formed. I joined him and talked with people in line but then left to cut video and do some more coverage. And let me point that out – 150th. If people got in line when we tweeted it, they would have not only gotten in, but had a damn good seat too. Apparently based on this story we screwed 150 or so people out of a seat, out of 6,000. Is that what we are at fault for? Or is it for the unofficial lines being formed, which we had no part of? Guilty until proven innocent, all of it. By the way this witch hunt is going, I’m surprised no one has accused us of delivering poison pizzas to the people in line. You’re welcome, by the way, whoever got one.

        But people seem to believe what they want out of this story, so I guess it’s pointless to keep stating what truly happened. If you guys want to hate, there’s nothing I can do to convince you otherwise. Next time we’ll just tweet out every unsanctioned line that forms, screw over folks who started them and invested their time, cause a situation for security to deal with and get CCI to hate us. I guess then everyone will be happy.

        • Your convoluted defence doesn’t align with the simple statements made on the Concast. I didn’t think the original problem Sarah pointed out was a big deal (although I respect her decision), but your reaction doesn’t show your best side.

          Your team puts out a great product and the fact that Shawn Marshall is part of it brings a lot of additional good will. Had you just said “thanks for being part of the team and we wish you well in the future” this would be over.

          I want to continue to enjoy the Concast and the rest of your site, and I want to feel good about doing it, but history suggests you’ll take this criticism as an attack and will continue to behave badly in reaction to it. I expect to see mean things about Sarah from members of your team on Twitter and elsewhere. That sort of thing brings much more harm to your brand than anyone outside your organization can cause.

  • Well done. I agree with your principled stand. I don’t agree with Justin’s comment that camping out or unofficial lines are started by “those who want it more,” but by those with the most anxiety, which is, unfortunately, catching…making a miserable, longer line experience for everybody. (Example: I got into Hall H in under 7 minutes for the SOA panel at 11:30 Sunday morning. Others I sat next to were horrified to hear that their overnight campout for the same panel was unnecessary.)

    Comic-Con has to do something to quell this spiraling panic…for instance, don’t honor unofficial lines. Give out wristbands later. When they give them out, do it quickly so folks don’t have time to call their friends and have them cut just ahead of the wristbands.

    And the Unofficial Blog has a duty to share information they have, not just what a random security person tells them they can. Otherwise, what’s the point of being unofficial? And information among the security folks is hardly coordinated and authoritative. Most couldn’t even tell me the nearest open bathroom. Blaming security doesn’t wash.

  • Bravo Sarah.

    Maybe the cracks in the pavement are showing now. If Jeremy and the blog are so innocent, why did they ask you to remove the chat dialogue? What is there to hide?

    I’ve been unimpressed with the “ethics” of this blog for sometime. Just look at their treatment of Crazy4ComicCon and others that don’t line up with everything they do.

    • I didn’t enter Hall H any day of the convention, but I personally asked (and it was me alone who requested) for the screenshots to be removed because they were from a private chat, and I don’t feel private conversations should to be screenshot’d and posted on the internet without permission. Simple as that!

    • This is the first I’ve heard of animosity between @SD_Comic_Con and @Crazy4ComicCon. I guess I’m quite naive to think all the popular bloggers who write about SDCC are one big happy family.

  • Bravo Sarah, I support your sense of fairness and the guts to stand your ground as well. Not sure Jeremy’s explanation is 100% true or just back peddling to cover his rep. But It doesn’t sound like he had ill intentions when he didn’t post the info. I will continue to follow you both, and it’s unfortunate you guys cannot work together.

  • F**k these @$$ holes of Comic-con. They f’ed over tons of people on Saturday morning. If I could have I would have loved to have done something to F them right back. I dont like sitting in a line all f’ing night long and then still get F’ed over by theyre shitty workers. Handicap people got screwed over even worse from what I heard and saw. Then some ugly street rat black woman with her breasts dragging down to her toes and eyes way to close to each other, comes out and starts dishing out attitude to everyone, when this broad is a massive nobody. Right now shes probably back to living in her box in some alley way. F comi-con. They treat the people who were there all night like shit as well as handicap people.

  • Yes, absolutely, everything you said. Giving in to the insanity just ratchets it up to another level. The blog was not responsible for creating the “super-secret” line, but they were not acting in good faith by joining it and not reporting it.

    • If security told them they couldn’t report that it was a line cause it would cause a mass of people and become a hazard- would you do it? It also wasn’t an official line it was people sitting in a public space who then waited for word of an official line. Check yoself before you wreck yoself.

  • I only have two issues with lining up before the con has ended for the day: vendors & Artists suffer and it has to be fair. Thank you for your honesty and making others aware.

  • Your one of the reasons I still believe in comic con karma. That super secret hall h line was so rude, mean and full of cheaters it def. made for a more difficult then it needed to be hall h experience. It wasnt just during tweets that they refused to say that was the line, friends walked by and asked if that was the hall h line and they where met with angry ” no this is not the line ” only for them to turn around later and let about 200 extra people cut in front of thousands of others. I have grown so used to the gestures of goodwill at comic-con that seeing this ugly side is def. making me rethink going back next year.

    • I had the misfortune of being one of those people that walked past the line and was met by anger and out right lies of “this is not the line, we are just sitting here”. In fact, Jeremy is one of the people who lied straight to my face and why was that, so he could personally benefit from the super secret line. The saddest part if it is that the poor fools in other lines had no clue that CSC staff and friends of Clarrisa Perez (the CSC staff member responsible for the start of the line) were at the start of the super secret line that did in fact become the official Hall H line Comic-Con Karma died in the Hall H line Friday afternon and people like Jeremy are directly responsible for that.

  • I walked past that line on Friday morning when walking over to do a photo press line at the Hilton. I’ve camped out myself in order to get decent shots. It’s getting crazier and crazier every year. Thank you so much for following your ethics in this case! Definitely believe in Con Karma!

  • Thank you for sharing this Sarah! While I do enjoy Unofficial Comic-Con I will have to seriously question their reporting in the future. To hear of such an unethical actions as these is really disappointing.

  • This may be unrelated to the Hall H line controversy but I don’t think you can always count on the SDCC unofficial blog as a reliable “news” source. I’ve enjoyed the advice articles and bits about exclusives and swag wrangling but I realized a couple of years ago that the tweets and posts had to be taken with a grain of salt and you had to double check information. (The blog doesn’t make that easy. It references itself a lot and doesn’t always link to or cite sources). I made sure to turn off my tweet notifications from the blog before the con started. I find it distracting and takes away from the con experience instead of enhancing it. It does seem like the blog often contributes to building a frenzy that isn’t warranted. Whether thats to promote clicks to the site or drum up sponsors i’m not sure. There seemed to be more “exclusive” or “secret” information posts on the blog this year for sure.

    I have a vent about the blog’s “off-site” event, Enchantment under the SDCC, which turned out to be less than and really irked me. This along with the attacks and controversy make me further question the blogs reliability and practices. Since I didn’t score a badge for preview night I thought the event would be a cool way to start off the con, pick up some freebies and enter the raffle since it had some big name “sponsors” (Lootcrate, Udon, Hasbro, Boom Studios and so on). The event was billed as free, first come, first served even though VIP tickets were sold. When we got there it turned out that only VIP ticket holders got any swag (not sure what it was beyond a t-shirt and a bag of some kind). We bought a couple of drinks to enter the raffle only to find out that only items bought after 8 qualified to receive a raffle ticket.

    So, chalk it up to inexperience or disorganization if you like, but I thought the blog wasn’t quite honest in the advertising for the event. If I had know that only VIPs would get swag then I would have made an attempt to buy a ticket or I could have opted to start my con a different way. I’m not against charging a fee to defray organizational costs or trying to build a fan base for the blog. Heck, I donated to the NerdHQ crowd funding this year and never set foot there. I just got the feeling that the “free” event was more for bragging rights and to help get sponsors for the next year. Again, I’m ok with charging or only VIPs getting swag but be upfront about that and don’t pretend it’s something else. I certainly won’t bother with any events by the blog in the future.

    I’m also not at all surprised to hear that there seems to have been selfish motivation with the Hall H incident. This doesn’t bother me so much as the pretending that it wasn’t self-motivated. From an outsider’s perspective it looks like they took chances on sitting in unofficial lines and and didn’t share the information until one or more people secured a spot in the eventual official line. It’s cool, you got ahead of the pack. Good for you. You’re allowed to be self-motivated but please don’t pretend its for the fan base or in service of those going to the con when it obviously isn’t. This is a repost of my comment on the Crazy4comicon site btw.

  • Hey that “Bleblo Johnson” comment up there is a casual example of what makes people hate the internet. NO reason for hateful comments like that, I mean, what. the. f***. Just goes to show you never know what kind of person you’re standing next to, even at geek events. Everyone is NOT a decent person, not even among nerds.

    Anyway…I have to agree with the overall feelings of Peggy, Martin, and M. And Sarah, too. There was a lot not quite right with this. Plus people in geekdom have noticed jabs at Crazy4ComicCon, but I think most of us thought it was all in good friendly fun. No idea the SDCC bloggers were just being bullies. I mean, setting up fake pages, what for??? Geez.

    All of this stuff with them makes SDCC Blog seem really pretentious, and bizarre.