I rarely check the internet over the weekends. I usually am using it trying to problemsolve a software issue. But earlier today, I stumbles on an bit at the Beat. Heidi MacDonald, whom I have much respect for as a source of comic/geek pop culture expressed a pet peeve. The basic gist of it was that she takes issue with reviewers pointing out that they received a complimentary copy. Instantly I thought of Johanna Draper Carlson and Comics Worth Reading. Comics Worth Reading is one of the few review sites I visit with regularity (although lately it seems to be to debate the value of Blu-Ray). Even if I don’t agree, I find the Reviews of Johanna and her team insightful. Especially, because I suck at reviewing. But that is another issue entirely.
Heidi challenged the idea of stating that the review was based on a freebie from the publisher. She feels it makes the review seem amatuerish. She did qualify that this certainly does not apply to Johanna’s reviews, noting that Johanna is a contributor for the Beat (am I understanding this correctly?). But still, understandibly, Johanna presents the other side. And it certainly is a damned if you due situation.
I understand why Johannadiscloses the information. But to be honest, I don’t think Comics Worth Reading needs the disclaimer. There is an air of professionalism, even though I know this is (for many) a non-paying side gig. But the fact is, I prefer reviewers working with product that was sent to them. Why? Reading reviews strictly about stuff people buy is hit or miss. First off, people are mainly buying what they like, and that actually does not guarantee less bias. It makes bias harder to avoid. I find people are softer on stuff they like, giving passes when they would not if they were not a fan. Sure, they may gripe about how a book turned out, but it’s a different feel than someone who did not enter with an attachment. I find it way easier to assess a movie I rented from Netflix than I do a movie I bought. I think, whether people will admit it or not, they are far less likely to call something they purchased a dud. Saying you bought Disaster Movie feels far worse than saying you added it to your Netflix queue(I Netflixed it-along with American Carol and that Ben Stein movie about how believing in Darwin’s theories will cause you to join the Nazi party). Plus, when people are only reviewing product they buy? It really lessens the chance of stumbling onto a gem. I recall more than one review on Comics Worth Reading that pointed out that based on surface info about the book-they never would have bought it, but thanks to a review copy, they found a great new book.
So, I agree generally with Heidi, though I think she was a bit rough, in that I do not think professionally going site need such a disclaimer. I disagree with the people who challenged the potential lack of bias that caused Johanna to feel she needs to place such a disclaimer. But I understand her reasoning behind doing it.