Moviefone Defends Asking TechCrunch Writer to Appease Movie Studio by Altering Story

We might never have noticed Alexia Tsotsis’ post on AOL’s TechCrunch about marketing strategy for the film The Source Code if a publicist at Summit Pictures hadn’t tried to dictate editorial content. But they did.

Said publicist complained about the “snarky” post to the employee at AOL’s Moviefone, who had connected Tsotsis with Summit. Moviefone then emailed Tsotsis and asked her to “tone down” the story.

Tsotsis, who you may remember from her stints at LA Weekly and SF Weekly, understandably decided against rewriting a story to please a movie studio. Instead, she published the request from Moviefone:

First wanted to thank you for covering Source Code/attending the party, etc. But also wanted to raise a concern that Summit had about the piece that ran. They felt it was a little snarky and wondered if any of the snark can be toned down? I wasn’t able to view the video interviews but I think their issue is just with some of the text. Let me know if you’re able to take another look at it and make any edits. I know of course that TechCrunch has its own voice and editorial standards, so if you have good reasons not to change anything that’s fine, I just need to get back to Summit with some sort of information. Let me know.

Egg on Moviefone’s face, right? Well, not according to their Editor-in-Chief, Patricia Chui. She addressed the controversy with a post on the Moviefone blog, insisting that asking a writer at another website to change a published post because a publicist complained was nothing more than passing on a message:

The reality of our situation is that, as a movies site, we work with movie studios every day, and it is in our best interests to stay on good terms with them. Staying on good terms with studios means that we will relay information if asked.

Making movie studios happy is not part of a journalist’s job. Maybe it was naive of us to expect Moviefone to have more editorial integrity, but… well, Chui does call herself an editor.