Fairfax film critic Schembri and the mystery of the Twitter time machine
Yesterday I sat down to eat my lunch and noticed something weird unfolding on Twitter. It appeared to be a kind of surreal online performance piece in which I was unwittingly cast as one of the key players. Bizarrely, the words “Luke Buckmaster” and “time machine” were mentioned 10 separate times in a flurry of online activity that began shortly after 1pm and was still going nine hours later.
It all began with a scary movie. Last Friday I wrote a story about how Fairfax film critic Jim Schembri spoiled the ending of Scream 4 by revealing the identity of the killer in the opening sentence of his review. Youch.
Like many other people, I read his review online last Thursday and was surprised that such an experienced film journalist had broken one of the cardinal rules of film reviewing: you don’t give away the ending.
But in a strange twist, the copy on each Fairfax website had changed come the morn and the print version of the review published in The Age the following day was different too. Schembri’s critique was now spoiler free.
That’s odd, I thought, so I emailed him at 9.12am Friday and asked him to comment on the changes. I sent him the original and the altered content and wrote:
“Could you please (comment) on how that change came about? Was the first version a mistake — i.e. an earlier draft of the review — or did you intend to reveal the killer’s identity? Your response would be greatly appreciated.”
Schembri did not respond to me but went on Twitter shortly after and wrote the following: “Scream 4: ALERT — We do NOT give away the ending of the film.”
By this time he had already generated disgruntled tweets from Scream fans understandably miffed that he’d ruined the ending of the movie. But this tweet — in which he appeared to suggest that his review had never contained a spoiler — sent the Twitterverse into a tizzy.
“You DID give away the ending, and you’ve changed the wording since. I read your original review last night,” wrote one. ”It was in the first line of the review! Changing it after the fact does not alter Google cache,” said another. And another: “absolutely spoiled it for my friend Laura yesterday. Great to alter the review, but gross to lie about it.” And another: “what was your motivation behind revealing the killer initially? I sincerely would like to know.” And there were many, many, many more.
I published my story approximately four hours after I contacted him — you can read it here — which provided, thanks to the power of Google, proof that the copy of his review had changed, though neither I nor the numerous people who read his original review would have needed such verification. After all, we saw it with our own eyes.
I wasn’t the only one to write about #Schembrigate. Glenn Dunks, of the popular blog Stale Popcorn, wrote:
“… you could imagine my surprise and shock when a prominent Melbourne-based, but nationally published in Fairfax newspapers such as The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, film critic — a very big fish in this rather small pond — went and announced who the killer was within the opening sentence of his review! I immediately went to Twitter and Facebook and announced this abhorrent unprofessional act.”
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