Journalists of any persuasion live for the story. It's a fickle and temporary spike in mass consciousness when any story first hits. As it gets syndicated or covered by others, it quickly turns commonplace. But right at the very onset of novelty, the one to first break the story is the man of the hour - or the magazine or network who brought the audience news that wasn't to be gotten anywhere else.

Audio reviewing isn't nearly as exciting or relevant. Still, the inherent politics of exclusives exist. Certain reviewers for example won't touch a product unless they're assured to break the story personally. Being second is simply not acceptable. This extends to publications as well. They will tell a manufacturer in no uncertain terms that they won't have an interest unless prior exclusivity is guaranteed. It thus should come as no surprise that an e-mail like the following would arrive on my desk. "Dear Mr. Ebaen, it has come to our attention that our distributor in Svengalia kindly made available one of our humdingers to your writer Sharp Pen. It is incumbent that you understand this review cannot be published for another six to eight months. I have personally promised The Force that they'll be the first magazine to report on our humdinger. This is the first time The Force has agreed to review one of our products. The Force controls sales in their market and should your 6moons review publish first, we'd lose this critical opportunity for a core sector of our business. I apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you and Sharp Pen."

Obviously, this e-mail is made up - but not the reality behind it nor the original e-mail that inspired it. This kind of thing perpetuates itself in various guises in our little industry. Make no mistake, all of us on the moons enjoy breaking a story just as much as the other guys. If it's done in the spirit of friendly competitiveness without background shenanigans; because we just so happened to arrive on the scene first or were deliberately singled out by a maker; then no foul play is involved and other publications get their fair share of cover stories.

But is it really necessary to be heavy-handed about exclusivity? Does it mean that if 6moons accepts product for review, this automatically nixes the same product getting reviewed by The Force? Fer chrissakes, it's only audio. This is supposed to be fun. This isn't Martha Gate or Iraq Gate. If there's any gate at all, the problem is that not enough people pass through it in the first place. Talking about Exclusivity Gate now is for no other reason than to suggest to The Force that this type of power play is old school. It surely doesn't foster good bidirectional relations. And I said bidirectional deliberately since it surely cannot be the case that the industry exists to serve the press.

We don't mind being second or third at all. If it's a good product that deserves wider exposure, the more the merrier. Hell, this entire hobby needs more rather than less exposure. And the mentality captured by the reworked e-mail above is strangulating the very industry it purports to serve. As I said, very old school indeed. Of course it's entirely possible that the humdinger's maker was simply paranoid. Perhaps he merely believes that The Force would cancel their review if ours published before theirs (ours is indeed ready right now). But then there is this e-mail: "... up to now we've had serious problems with our US counterparts so under all circumstances, any review you do must not be published in the US at this time."

Is it too much to suggest that our forcible brethren in the press apply the power that time has bestowed upon them more gently so that manufacturers aren't forced to do the old Potomac 2-step and become politicians? Otherwise the old saw about power and the corruption that inevitably follows it can't be blamed for being sung in the rafters where the observers and critics congregate to muse about what's wrong with our industry!
By showing the above image of the modified Garrard 301 today, November 6, 2005, we hereby lay claim to being the first to review it. Anyone else, keep your greedy paws off it until our review publishes sometime before January 2007 -:)