By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
7:56 PM EDT, October 11, 2013
There's bad journalism, and then, there is bad online, show-biz journalism, which is in a class by itself when it comes to laziness, lack of fact-checking and flatout hack-ocity (I know that's not a word, but it speaks to my anger at the moment).
Huffington Post put a report up Thursday with the headline, "'House of Cards' Season 2 Likely to Be its Last, Producer Says."
That could be of some interest not only to fans of the Netflix series, but also folks in Baltimore where the series in filmed.
But what's it based on?
It's based on a second-hand report of a statement allegedly made a week ago at a film festival in Canada by Rick Cleveland, a co-executive producer on the show. The first report five days ago was at the Gold Derby website.
Here's how it is now being "reported":
Under the headline at Huffington Post is a video from Huff Post TV featuring a correspondent identified as Mike Sacks, who says, "According to an article posted by Gold Derby, it seems the show starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright will conclude after its second season."
After saying, "Apparently, Netflix only ordered two 13-episode seasons," Sacks quotes Cleveland saying, "'House of Cards' is only going to a second season and I think that's it."
He says Cleveland "revealed" that information "today at the Vancouver Film Festival."
The Huffington Post report under the Huff Post TV video says Cleveland told Gold Derby, "Kevin Spacey likes to do movies and Robin Wright likes to do movies," which is why the series will allegedly end after two seasons.
Where to start in deconstructing this quasi-journalistic hot mess?
The Gold Derby post is dated Oct. 6, and it says that Cleveland made his remarks on Oct. 4 at the film festival.
So, it's not clear if Gold Derby ever talked to Cleveland or is reporting second hand what he reportedly said at a film festival two days earlier.
And if the Oct. 10 date at Huffington Post is correct, why is Sacks saying Cleveland "revealed" the alleged news "today"?
And why is Sacks saying, "Apparently Netflix only ordered two 13-episode seasons"?
There is nothing apparent about it. The order of 26 episodes has been a confirmed and widely reported fact for 18 months.
And why is Sacks saying "only"?
Two 13-episode seasons without a pilot is a huge and unprecedented order for a TV series -- and that was widely-reported as well.
You get the idea: What you have here are buzzards feeding off the entrails of second-hand information -- and correspondents who don't even have basic knowledge of the subject on which they are reporting.
And what kind of authority is Cleveland anyway to be speaking for the future of "House of Cards"?
He is indeed a co-executive producer and a fine TV writer, but there are lots of folks up the food chain more informed and better situated to be talking about the future of the series.
They would include: show runner and executive producer Beau Willimon, director and executive producer David Fincher, star and executive producer Kevin Spacey and his producing partner Dana Brunetti. There are also executive producers John Melfi and Sarah Treem.
And how about Modi Wiczyk, CEO of Media Rights Capital, the production company that made "House of Cards" and then sold the U.S. and U.K. distribution rights to Netflix, a groundbreaking arrangement? Without Media rights Capital there would have never been a "House of Cards" for Netflix to stream.
I spoke to Wiczyk about the future of "House of Cards" on the eve of the Emmys last month.
"People here feel very lucky to have been part of 'House of Cards,'" he said in that interview. "We feel like everyone delivered all the way around. We hope we've done our end. And the journey will continue. I get to know what Francis [Underwood] is going to be doing in seasons 3, 4 and 5. I'm not going to tell you, but it's going to be pretty cool."
"Are you telling me there is going to be season 3, 4 and 5," I said seeking to pin him down and clarify his remarks.
"I would basically be shocked if there wasn't," he replied.
Anything is possible with a production as expensive and template-shattering as this. Sure, it could end after the initial guarantee of 26 episodes. That's a given -- not news. Any series could end after the initial order.
And after two seasons, I am sure Spacey and Wright are wondering about the prospect of three more years in harness. Thirteen episodes a year is a lot at this level -- especially for older actors.
Or, maybe talk of them wanting to do movies is a negotiating ploy. Maybe talk of the series ending is a negotiating ploy -- and the lazy press is willing to be used as a stooge because there are page views to be gained in playing the game.
But with Willimon tweeting that he hopes to keep the series going, and Wiczyk, the money guy, saying he expects three more years, don't you think Gold Derby, Huffington Post or someone in the sorry realm of online show-biz reporting could have reported that and tried to put Cleveland's remarks in some kind of context?
I guess not, that would be too much work -- and too much like real journalism.
I expect this of Hollywood reporting, but today Politico went with an item citing the Gold Derby report as well.
I'm too weary to take on failings of online Washington journalism today.
Like I said, anything's possible on a production like this. But let's try to put rumors and remarks in some context when we report them.
Or, would being responsible be bad for business?
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