An Interview with Ron Scovil
BY JUSTIN SEVAKIS
Anime News Network: How did you get involved at Mixx?
Ron Scovil, Jr.: Ah, Victor Chin, who is presently the circulation director at Mixx, and I had a multimedia company called Studio Phoenix (which I still have kept around) and we were bringing around an online anime and manga megasite to America Online when they had the Greenhouse program [a program to help new entrepreneurs start businesses around AOL sites]. We met Stu [Stuart Levy, CEO of Mixx) at a trade show. Mixx started with Stu and me at that point. I guess you could say that I was Mixx's first employee.
Well we never brought the site (it was to be called the Phoenix Atrium) to full launch. MixxZine, or "CoMixx" as it was then, launched in its place on paper.
ANN: So, what started to tip you off that you had REALLY made the wrong choice going into this?
Scovil: Initially, when you start a company, there is a euphoria, due mostly to the rush in the work you are doing. We had a company meeting one day over something and the message that came out that it was as a collective that we would make decisions. When the collective voice always seemed to lose arguments, I knew then that I didn't really make the right choice.
ANN: So, what was the final straw?
Scovil: There wasn't a "final straw..." It was a culmination of events. That's a bit more precise. Being put in a position where I would have lied to people who came to trust me hurt a lot, and I wouldn't have ever forgotten or forgiven that.
ANN: Did he have a direct hand in the message board fiasco?
Scovil: One would have to assume that when he took control of my account that he passed it on to the intern Andy Yi, whom I had interviewed for the position, who knows little to nothing about Mixx's affairs or information... or even history of events. That he would deny it is unbelievable. If you look at the webboard records (which, by the way, are still there) you can see when Stu logged in first and last and posted messages. So the records of the webboard itself indicate that someone with prime account was logging in. All of this is detailed on the Eye On Mixx web page. My accounts were taken over and he controlled them. I doubt he gave them to an intern. I think Stu pulled the plug on the webboard, because I was on the webboard chat waiting for some friends when Andy Yi dropped in. He made no mention to me then, early that morning, that he was going to pull the plug.
CHAT START: (An anonymous Ron Scovil is seen here as Sailor Starr. This conversation has been rearranged slightly for continuity reasons, but otherwise remains totally unchanged. Original times have been retained if you want to reconstruct the conversation in its original order. This happened on September 11, 1998, hours before the board was taken down, which was also the day the Kenneth Starr report was released, hence the nickname. Arshes Nei, mentioned in the conversation, is Ron's girlfriend Sara.)
12:43:20 PM Sailor Starr entered the room. 12:45:19 PM Andrew Yi entered the room. 12:45:51 PM Sailor Starr hello 12:46:44 PM Andrew Yi hi 12:46:49 PM Andrew Yi how are you? 12:46:55 PM Andrew Yi do you know who i am? 12:47:13 PM Andrew Yi i'm kinda surprised that anyone wants to talk to me 12:47:31 PM Sailor Starr The guy who deleted those people? 12:48:05 PM Andrew Yi something like that. 12:48:35 PM Andrew Yi ahh, and you are the infamous boycott person. 12:48:40 PM Andrew Yi nice to meet you 12:49:38 PM Sailor Starr I am not the boycott person I just support the pettition on the page It is NOT my page 12:49:00 PM Sailor Starr censorship is wrong you killed those of us who were supporting you and staying out of it 12:49:56 PM Andrew Yi is it now, and what about our right to control the webboard? 12:50:21 PM Andrew Yi people have been deleted before, this was no different 12:51:14 PM Sailor Starr People were only deleted for Spamming Never posting something unpopular that is a lie 12:51:17 PM Andrew Yi look i know you are taking all this down for a later post, but let me say something. 12:51:54 PM Andrew Yi no other people before i came here were deleted for several reasons 12:52:19 PM Sailor Starr You don't know that You are paranoid 12:53:19 PM Andrew Yi no, its happened trust me, 12:53:18 PM Sailor Starr If people were deleted for being annoying Kathy and Erica would have been deleted a long long time ago if you bother to look at the past messages on the webboard 12:53:46 PM Andrew Yi both were from what has been told to me, once again before i got here 12:54:16 PM Sailor Starr Who were the people that were deleted? Actual user accounts Not bad messages? 12:54:56 PM Sailor Starr If you know who and why them tell me who or you have bad information 12:52:17 PM Andrew Yi i tried to do my best when it came to the webboard. 12:53:05 PM Andrew Yi but the fact was that i had and still have many other duties that need to be done. 12:54:32 PM Andrew Yi the time i put into the webboard I need to put into other things 12:55:22 PM Andrew Yi what arshes nei said was true, this was ron's baby 12:56:37 PM Andrew Yi not mine, I just work here. I also have many other duties and am going to go back to them now, without the worry of what people think on the webboard. 12:57:35 PM Sailor Starr Bingo You do not know you just accept whatever you are told at face value and do not bother to check for yourself 12:56:54 PM Sailor Starr Who were the people? Ron came by last night and said who was deleted and why I think his information is better than yours considering HE actually managed the webboard 12:57:29 PM Andrew Yi came by last night? you mean on the board? 12:57:46 PM Sailor Starr Yep on the board 12:58:21 PM Andrew Yi sigh, look sailor, you know what you know, and i do also. what is truth to you may not be the same truth. 12:58:42 PM Andrew Yi someone once told me be wary of all that you hear, and trust me i am 12:59:28 PM Andrew Yi but this was not a part of my job description: taking abuse from fans, so i'm out. 12:59:15 PM Sailor Starr then just say who was deleted for posting bad messages? We were all told 1:00:10 PM Sailor Starr I am not abusing you I asked a simple question that I got the answer to asking Ron last night 1:00:18 PM Andrew Yi bye 1:00:11 PM Andrew Yi thanks for the time though sailor starr END TRANSCRIPT
ANN: Was it true that parents were complaining about Sailor Moon being in the same book as stuff like Ice Blade and Parasyte?
Scovil: That had happened since day one. The response was that the company did not care and would be releasing graphic novels at a later time anyway... And the numbers were a nil issue. The average video game was more graphic. We had went to several stores pre-launch and showed them the most graphic parts of those stories. Overall, the storekeepers and managers saw video games as more violent.
This is when we were pushing for conservative newsstand accounts.
ANN: I see. Stuart mentioned that it was the intention from day one to eventually separate SM from the shonen stuff. Was this true when you were there?
Scovil: Partially. I'm not sure if he is meaning to move it the way it is happening. I mean, to do a pure shoujo or female version of MixxZine, the way it is happening, absolutely not. Not from day one anyway... I had personally put my own name and reputation on the line at AnimeExpo panels [last July] and earlier in the year at Bakacon, stating that Sailor Moon would move, but the move was not to be done entirely the way it's being done now. I had argued that, looking at the demographics and interest of the subscribers, in an effort to make the circulation director's job easier, that by default all subscriptions be converted to Smile and have an option to keep Mixx, But the situation that would have made that possible never occurred.
ANN: Do you think that the lack of warning to subscribers about SM being moved was intentional, or just poor planning?
Scovil: Not warning people about Sailor Moon being on its own was an intentional decision. When it was made there was a public Mixx forum that could have informed the subscribers what was going on. Most subscribers still don't have Mixx 2-2and they've already re-subscribed starting back at issue 6. They won't know what is going on until after the fact. To quell the uproar, Mixx will have to make a fast decision. Fast decisions without thought are usually bad ones.
ANN: Mr. Levy said that the reason for the editing and such was the strong language, coupled with the knowledge that it was a "family" web page. That, and they couldn't compete with the negative voices on there, being shorthanded.
Scovil: There was never any profanity on the webboard that I recall seeing. Not ever from the people who were deleted. In fact, those posts were all cross-posted from the webboard to the usenet newsgroups. So that is a lie. In fact, as the maintainer of the webboard, you could edit a word of profanity out of a post IF it was there and there wasn't any there. I have access to the messages before certain accounts got killed and I can show them as proof that there was no profanity. That is unbelievable that that was said.
ANN: What do you think of the fans' reaction to all this? Do you think it's mostly the webboard thing that peeved them off?
Scovil: And what happened to Mixx being Preteen and above audience. If you look at the albums and such we were recommending for these "kids" and families, there are some graphic ones there, mostly gangsta rap; stuff that isn't for 10-year-old kids. You don't see Hanson or The Spice Girls. I think that the fans, like all people, have a right to respond however they feel. In light of the 20 questions that they themselves put together, I think they have a right to be upset. People love these stories, but not enough to tolerate anything to read them. There are fan translations out there, and other companies that are doing manga.
ANN: Some fans are getting rather personal. Mr. Levy mentioned one e-mail he got that called him "Satan" TO HIS FACE. He said he was very hurt by this.
Scovil: I was not at Otakon or San Diego Comic Con. If he wants to know why people are saying what they are, he only needs to look in the mirror. After and during both there were reports coming out of each with his own personal comments, and I was reading them on usenet and on webpages. I had a fun talk one night with a producer at an anime company who is a buddy, and even he said he is glad he didn't handle things the way they were handled. After Otakon people were feeling they were too hard on Trish Ledoux. Those kinds of sentiments take a very negative reaction from someone to develop.
ANN: Do you think they'll end up feeling the same way about Mixx?
Scovil: I don't have any doubts that those feelings will be worse. There is a history now. Fans and otaku have grown to know what not to accept anymore, so they will be even angrier.
ANN: So, you're saying the fandom is more mature than it used to be?
Scovil: Fandom is a lot more mature. The businesses, for the most part, are made of people who are fans themselves, and have seen it grow, as well as people like Scott Frazier and Fred Schodt and other scholars who educate people on the realities at the cons. It helps the fans understand more. So they have grown up considerably, and their tastes have also refined. Fansub groups have also been a big benefit to the anime community as a whole.
ANN: What does Stu think of fandom and fansubbers?
Scovil: All I have to say is, look at what he said at Otakon and what he did at San Diego Comic Con.
ANN: So, looking back on your year(s) at Mixx, are there any incidents in particular that stand out?
Scovil: Some of the things that I like and remember the most have nothing to do with the company itself. In fact, all of my good memories are of the people that I met. The people were important to me because they were fans like I am. My love of anime and manga was declining while I was there, but it has since been rekindled.
ANN: So, what are YOUR plans for the future?
Scovil: Lots of deep sea fishing! (laughs) Actually, I will be announcing something very soon. I am still doing things and helping out several anime conventions right now, so it will make sense then.
ANN: Okay, we'll leave it at that. Any closing comments?
Scovil: People have their own free wills. They are intelligent enough to make decisions for themselves. Read the SOS page on San Diego Comic Con and read the EyeonMixx page. Read the official Mixx response too and decide.