Spoiler etiquette - John C. Kirk
Mar. 9th, 2007
10:27 pm - Spoiler etiquette
As I've mentioned before, I like to be surprised by stories, so I do my best to avoid "spoilers" (things that give away the ending). This can sometimes be a challenge, particularly when there's a timelag between countries, but I've got the hang of it now, and I'm pretty good at avoiding the relevant places (e.g. websites/newsgroups) until I've seen the episode, read the book, or whatever. On the flipside, most people are fairly polite about it, and will make an effort to warn everyone else (e.g. "Here's my review of the latest Dr Who episode, spoilers behind the cut tag"). However, this isn't always the case.
In one of the Marvel comics published this week, a well known character dies. I haven't read the comic in question, but I know this because it's been announced in various locations, such as the BBC news website. The character's name is given in the title of that page, which also means it shows up in the link from other pages on the site; right now it's the top "Arts" headline on the main Entertainment page, and I think it was on the front page of the website earlier today.
That article is timestamped at 16:14 yesterday (Thursday 8th March). To put this in perspective, American comics are published on Wednesdays, and then arrive in the UK on Thursdays. (They can be delayed by bank holidays, but that's not the case this week.) If you live in London, you can get the new comics from noon on Thursday onwards, although people who don't work near a comic shop will probably wait until Thursday/Friday evening. If you live outside London, you have to wait until Friday for them to be redistributed (based on my experience in Oxford and Durham). So, I think it's fair to say that most people won't have made it to the shop before that headline went live. There is a judgment call about how long you should wait, but I think that four hours is pushing it a bit!
This doesn't directly affect me, because I've only been reading that comic in paperback collections (rather than monthly issues), so I would have heard about it eventually anyway. However, I do think that the BBC have handled this badly. By way of analogy, when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published a couple of years ago, it was announced in advance that one well-known character would die. This book was available in shops at midnight, so would it have been ok for the BBC to print the identity of that character in a headline at 4am, where everyone would see it the following morning?
Is it ok to reveal a secret like this after four hours?
Edit: Comments to this entry include spoilers (i.e. the name of the character concerned), so don't click through unless you want to know.