October 22, 2019

Spoiling Spoiler Culture

“In 2013, I was executive editor of the NY Daily News, and we, like every other publication in the country, were covering the series finale of Breaking Bad. As one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows in history, the finale was obviously a huge news event. I decided to treat it as such and put our coverage of it across the top of Page One. There, with a small picture of the main character, Walter White, was the headline, “Breaking Dead. Walt meets bloody end in series finale.”

Many editors in the newsroom argued we couldn’t do that because it would act as a spoiler for those who hadn’t watch the finale yet. Coincidentally, the headline beneath the Breaking Bad story was about the New York Giants’ loss that Sunday afternoon. So, I asked the editors, Should we not print the score of that game because certainly some fans recorded the event and hope to watch it the next day? They didn’t have a good answer to explain the difference. So the Breaking Bad headline stayed.

The next morning, as I was buying coffee at my local deli in Brooklyn, a gentleman in front of me purchased a bagel and a copy of the Daily News. A few seconds later we were both on the sidewalk, and he was crossing the street a few paces ahead of me when he glanced at the paper, stopped in the middle of the intersection, tensed his entire body, and shrieked, “Nooo!!!””

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