Covering Anime News: What?

This is something I normally don’t think about but it is something I make decisions on everyday.

Just what is “covering the news” for anime? What is “anime news”? I mean let’s get it out of the way first, by anime I mean how I tag my posts by the moniker “modern visual culture.” It’s like why Genshiken is more about lounging around, a lifestyle and perspective, rather than just content–games, manga, anime, whatever. Culture sounds like the right term, but I don’t think it conveys the message in a direct, intuitive way.

But anyway, you know what I’m referring to by “anime news.” I think such kind of trivial game is what defines the coverage provided by Anime News Network. When it comes to the culture, though, that’s how everyone else covers the news. From ANN’s new  “interests” posts to half the stuff on Sankaku Complex (as the other half is outright porn). I mean with Kotaku East, it’s already well within the same target.

When I started writing for Japanator back in ’08 I wanted to see a Gawker-style blog covering the news. The usual 2ch coverage blogs were really where most of the goods were at–in fact if we took that away the amount of online news for “anime” (which I will continue to use quotes for when used in this context) would drop by like, 75%. But in 2012 terms that isn’t really a problem. The time gap between when something hits 2ch and something hits our intrepid ANN news team to the time it hits the 9001 blogs that repost from the same group of blogs is trivial. I mean the REALLY big news break on twitter just as fast, these blogs merely provide text space beyond the 140th character.

Plus I would imagine most people reading that are more interested for IP they like and for overall amusement value. Well, I guess I’m going to ask the handful of people here: do you even care about “anime news”? Do you read it? Why do you read it?

I’m more inclined to think that there are a few modes in which we consume news. It’s therefore first order of business to cover news that satisfy these modes of consumption. Obviously it still can be informative even if people are just looking for some LULZ in their “animu newz”; some news need the right spin on them, and it’s up to a news site to put the right spin on them. I think that’s the biggest problem to “anime news” in general: I’ve not seen too many people crunching out these blurbs doing that. I mean I guess this is partly why Artefact gets readers.

By right spin I mean simply putting it in a way where it gets people to realize that there’s more to it. To do it in a way that doesn’t make you the laughingstock is not easy, and at least you would want to at least be banking it if people are going to look down on you. And to some extent ANN is just too tied up with its corporate interests to rock the boat much. Such is the catch-22 of hiring full-time writers. There’s no money in this business as far as I can tell, besides to basically work half way as an advertising agency, or as a social network/media piracy site, or something in between.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se, let me quickly add–anime (and game and manga etc) in English-language is a poorly, horribly covered thing. It can use all the ads it can get. But it becomes a limit in terms of actually covering the news. You can’t piss off Funimation, you can’t piss off the cons you sponsor, etc.

Personally I’m getting pretty tired of it. At least there is a distinct improvement over years past in terms of the overall primary news sites being able to elevate news from merely ads-disguised-as-news (even if it still happens). We have to accept that “anime news,” by default, involves some amount of that. But I don’t know what can be done; it seems nobody really gives it a damn.

What I want to see more, as I probably have mentioned elsewhere, is original coverage. I want to see more American/western news. I want to see more of, say, MAL covered by American sites than 2ch, LOL. I think this is exactly the problem that “anime news” coverage in English language have–we’re not shameless enough to dig everywhere for everything, and those who are shameless enough aren’t interested or is unable to do so (eg., porn). Curating the news in a way where we take the information we see everyday and repack them as “news” is ultimately what I want to see. I want to see a lifestyle being written up, where the pieces of new information such a news site bring us edifies us and tells us important things, but also make us aware what goes beyond just the grinding that happens to be the life of a poorly paid online blogger.

I guess it’s all about having the right narrative after all.

And this is not to say anything of features and editorials, which slinks over to a different kind of mindset.

7 Responses to “Covering Anime News: What?”

  • aaaaaaaaaaaa

    The problem with the kind of news you’re hungering for is, as far as I can tell, that not too many people care very much.

    This is what I want from “anime news”:
    – Keeping up to date on new shows (initial announcements, staff/cast lists, airing dates)
    – Staying informed about the products (BD solicits, info on extras, cover art, Oricon sales data)
    – Tidbits about seiyuu/staff/musicians related to anime (trivial like “Kitamura Eri voiced ep 8 of Nise with a toothbrush in her mouth” or less trivial like “Kawakami Tomoko has died” or in-between like “Hagiwara Yukiho’s seiyuu changed”).

    No offense intended (okay, quite a lot might be intended depending on who we’re talking about) to western anime “journalists” but 99% of what I want from them is just “enough Japanese proficiency to translate Yaraon (or whatever)” when the story is a bit too complex for me to work through it myself with my very limited skills. At least 50% of the time, though, I’ve already read the news on the 2ch blogs (or on English forums) before it hits the more “official” English “news” sites. At that point, I only use the English sites to confirm something I was unsure about or to fill in tidbits I missed.

    Is a lot of this material essentially “advertising” for shows? Yeah, but I don’t have a problem with that because it’s exactly what I want and need to know as a mass anime-importing otaku consumer whore.

    There are cases where I want to go a little deeper (I’ve spent much time in the translated documents section of the Madoka Magica wiki) but how much, if any, of that is going to come from original material written by westerners? All they can really hope to do is regurgitate the original Japanese sources.

  • omo

    Thanks for the feedback. I think what you want is sort of the bare minimum being served already today. I want more than just this.

    As for how many people would want it, I don’t know. I’m inclined to think people don’t know what they’re missing, however.

  • NegativeZero

    Personally what you’re describing is something I’d love to see, I think. It’s sort of what I intended to try and do with my own stuff years back, though I very quickly realised the effort wasn’t worth it and now all I do is periodically post some vector graphics that no one cares about :P. When you mention Gawker I hope you’re thinking less like Gawker is now and more like they used to be a few years back – Kotaku US for example has really flushed itself over the last 18 months or so. I especially like the weeks they decide to do some feminism article or something wailing about objectification of women in games media, then follow it up with cosplay pics / softcore porn.

    Honestly I don’t generally keep track of anime news that much beyond having ANN news in my RSS reader, because otherwise you’ve got to keep track of a whole ton of places and then mentally filter and corellate different stuff together. There’s no one single spot that does it all and blogs tend to be a bit noisy or extremely biased in the content and tone of their reporting (can’t stand Sankaku because of that for example.)

    What I’d love to see in addition to news is a bit more in-depth coverage of stuff. Analysis of trends, interviews, the sort of stuff you’d expect from a magazine I guess. There’s a surprising lack of this sort of stuff, generally the more ‘in depth’ coverage on sites like ANN is more OP-ED pieces or very tabloidy stuff, whereas when you look into blogs, you get stuff that can be fairly ranty or niche, or even worse, episode summaries (I don’t mind discussion, but summaries always seem incredibly pointless to me). I think in the end my ideal model for anime news would be something more like Ars Technica is for tech news, where they syndicate some news content from wired, report on major things, and supplement it with larger well-written and researched informative articles.

  • omo

    I think Wired is one way this could work. The problem is it isn’t hard to actually gather news, it’s hard writing it up in a way where it’s what you said and all of the above. It isn’t hard to find ideas to work with either (…I should know) but it’s even more time consuming to research and write about them.

  • NegativeZero

    I guess that’s why sites like Wired feel they can justifiably hire full-time writers. Ars is slightly different because they also offer subscriptions (and their content is such that they derive a good amount of their operating income from that).

  • BranchDevidian

    You write for Japananator, don’t you? Do you write any of the news you want to see? The best way to get more of what you want out of the internet is to put examples out there, after all.

  • omo

    It isn’t so much news but a way of covering things. I would probably have to do something a lot more drastic than to write for an established site to get that done. Or rather, it’s really up to readers to decide what they want to see.

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