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Public editor: When the spoiler alert becomes pointless

Game of Thrones

HBO

There was a brief flurry on Twitter Monday morning and also an e-mail to me about a spoiler (spoiling?) headline and photograph with a Game of Thrones story.

The story starts out with this warning in bold letters: (Warning: Spoilers. If you have not watched Episode 2 of Season 4, don't read this).

But the problem was that too much was given away with the headline and accompanying photo. I don't want to make it worse by giving anything away here, but you can click on the link if you want to know more.

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One reader on Twitter said: "SERIOUSLY. A Tweet with the words "spoiler alert" + an auto loading photo = 2014 oxymoron."

Another said, "@globeandmail Spoiler alert: This is a spoiler."

One other said, "DON'T tweet characters picture. No time to avert eyes."

The Globe and Mail's community editors posted a tweet apologizing: "You have been heard. And we've shackled the tweet writer."

And the photo on the story that gave away too much has been changed now.

Peter Kavanagh sent me an e-mail asking: "What do you gain by revealing the death of a major character in the Game of Thrones. ... All who have seen the episode know what happened, all who haven't are denied a certain dramatic pleasure. ... Should I just assume that your columnists will now reveal the end of mystery novels, the solutions to the crossword, the final answer on Jeopardy because you can …"

In a follow up e-mail, he said: " While I don't object to spoilers in stories … I can avoid the stories if I don't want the dramatic tension erased. … But it is very hard to ignore a headline."

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He is absolutely correct about this. It's fair to write about a live sports event and TV shows, but it's not fair to viewers to give away anything in the headline. You can choose to avoid a story, but not a headline.

But there were some readers who didn't see a problem with the Tweet (or the article): "@globeandmail it's been in the books for fifteen years, don't apologize."

I don't think you can count on all viewers having read the books before the series, but still it's nice to hear from the other side too.

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More

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