A few weeks ago, when the Grammy Awards aired, we sent alerts on the top winners to our subscribers around the world, users of the AP mobile app and our social media followers. This brought us a fierce message from one app user, who said the show hadn’t yet been broadcast on the U.S. West Coast and we’d spoiled the excitement for him.
As a global news organization, there’s no way we can hold up breaking news from events millions of people are watching, like the Grammys, just because not everyone has seen it yet.
But on occasion, we do make efforts to avoid spoilers. Take coverage of TV series like a “Mad Men” finale or the outcome of a competition show such as “The Voice,” whose air times vary depending on time zones. We keep results out of the headlines and trust viewers won’t go further if they don’t want to know the outcome.
There’s also the increasingly common situation where a whole season of shows, like “House of Cards,” is released at once.
Some people will binge-watch them all immediately. But most will view a few at a time, and it’s reasonable not to be in their faces with plot twists they may not want to know about. In such cases, too, we avoid putting any potential spoiler in headlines, and we warn readers within our stories before we talk about a surprise that happens in a later episode.
We also avoid spoiler material in reviews. When we review a play that’s a detective story, we don’t reveal whodunit.
It comes down to trying to tread a line between covering breaking entertainment news as it happens and respecting the suspense many enjoy around the content of entertainment programs themselves.