My “bashing of Russell Hantz” blamed for getting my Survivor access cut off

I don’t frequent Survivor message boards like Survivor Sucks, in part because I’m spoiler averse, but read them occasionally when someone sends me a link or just to check in. So I was surprised to see the person who correctly spoiled recent seasons address me by name in a post today:

“I have not heard from Andy, he is not on the list of friends or fans I have, lol. He does not really care for spoilers either. I was just trying to tell him what happened behind the scenes as to why he was axed from the Survivor pre-show interviews. Maybe he didn’t wanna hear the truth?”

This struck me as weird all around, because the only thing I’ve really written about missyae wasn’t exactly critical, which my paranoia suggests means I have referred to that person in some other context or perhaps even know them. But I certainly know of no way to contact him/her other than posting on Sucks, which I don’t do (though anyone can e.mail me). I also had no idea what missyae was referring to until I searched around and found this post:

“The guy from RealityBlurred is a top flight assclown. If he didn’t post such nasty comments mixed in with his interviews with players, he might have gone back out there to do pre-show interviews again this time around. All that bashing of Russell Hantz caught up with him. I guess he can now blame Russell for his firing from doing those interviews. Word is Hantz went to the PTB and helped get DenFart axed. I guess he should have made those snarky add-on comments to Russell’s face instead of just adding them into his article when he got back home. At least these players had someone respectable like Gordon Holmes to be interviewed by.”

As accurate as missaye’s spoilers have been, this all strikes me as absurd, though I hope it’s true because that’s even more hilarious than anything I could have imagined.

For the record, I did not get “fired.” I do not and have never worked for CBS, so they cannot fire me, although some there are apparently under the illusion that journalism works that way. They simply cut off my access: first to Probst (I’d requested a pre-season 20 interview), then to contestants for season 20′s post-eviction interviews, and then to the set visit. All of this happened simply by exclusion; no one ever called and said, “Hey, you’re out.” That would have required professionalism.

Anyway, as far back as last fall, I heard from publicists that people in CBS’ executive ranks–not contestants–weren’t happy with my reporting, such as this story’s mention that two of the contestants were alternates added at the last minute, even though two of the contestants were alternates added at the last minute who discussed this in on-the-record interviews, and even though I was never told that information was off the record. My only read of this is that CBS publicity is so used to working with journalists as conduits for their press releases and/or producing work that constitutes publicity–not critics, and certainly not people who ask questions beyond about what they see on the screen–that they expected I’d play ball. I didn’t, and so they didn’t, and that’s fine.

Second, I talked to Russell Hantz twice: In Samoa, and on the phone after his Samoa loss. I expressed the same skepticism in person as I did in my write-ups, though certainly with different language. I cannot imagine that of all things Russell Hantz has dealt with, the contents of either interview or any of my recaps bothered him enough to complain to someone, if he’s even aware of their existence.

However, contestants did have a surprising amount of power, perhaps by being annoying to publicists more than anything else. A few times, I was asked by publicists to edit posted articles because contestants complained to them about things those contestants said in on-the-record, audio recorded interviews, and of course I declined because, again, that’s not how journalism works. And by the way, I’m under no delusion that my reporting is about a stupid television show and complaining about its contestants is important work, even if that television show is a game-changing one. More than anything, I fear for journalists who write about important things, like government, if this is the kind of bullshit one deals with regarding something that’s not very important at all.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.