A recent SXSW panel discussion about music journalism was interesting, particularly these two observations:
“Nothing is real,” quipped Spin editor-in-chief Puja Patel — flying a little close to the sun for some — when asked about alliances between the major labels and playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. That association can drive traffic on sites like Genius, whose news editor, Chris Mench, explained how a track appearing on a popular Spotify playlist always drives traffic to the song’s page on his site. “You can see in real-time what people are interested in,” said Mench. The discussion also segued to Spotify’s internal playlists, like Rap Caviar, which are curated by actual experts, making the job of new-artist discovery more challenging.
For a site like Bandcamp, though, the audience dictates which new artists the site chooses to profile. “We’re catching people on the way up,” said Senior Editor Marcus Moore. “If whatever we do helps them in the long run — I’m good.”
This isn’t journalism. This advertorial writing. The point is not to “help” any act through the press. It is to report on styles, emergence of new genres, cultural and social impact and trends, and the ugly side of it as well: from drug smuggling, to payola, to sexual harassment, to even the sketchy ways record labels promote and fudge numbers to inflate their impact and importance.
We don’t have music journalists. We have copy writers. We have marketers.
If the problems were confined to music journalism it would be one thing. But the profession isn’t weakened just because of that one glitch.
It is not just a North American problem. There is talk in Australia about how ideal of a cover journalists could be for spies.
Well, that will put a huge target sign on those in the profession in foreign countries.
But having journalists as spies is nothing new — it has been used globally, sometimes countries will make the practice illegal, before the law is repealed.
That such talk is beginning again is interesting as the industry has collapsed, and it collapsed for numerous reasons — trivializing important stories has been on the top of the list.
But not just in North America, but in countless other countries. We see it in India, for instance, but non-North American countries at least make their displeasure known and do not put a sunny spin on the problem.
Very few in North America have the understanding of what happened in the profession. The Denver Post wasn’t in trouble because everything was function in the industry. We may have people in the profession blame hedge funds for the woes — but that isn’t the case.
Journalism’s own numbness to reality did them in.
Bob Woodward seems to be one of those who can see the result of the sloppiness and hubris, but it goes much further than the lost sense of objectivity.
The problem has always been universal: the complete lack of discipline and empirical methods. Terms have never been defined in a useful way.
It is akin to building a house with stones, piling them up haphazardly, without measurement, tools, or improving methods with testing and experimenting. With the house collapses, you cannot pretend your crude methods were not to blame.
It is a world-wide problem. It is a problem for people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, nationality, race, religion, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and educational background. No one can have virtuous airs about who is to blame for a profession’s global destruction.
That is the first revelation people need to grasp: that no one is safe and no one has got it right.
And you cannot do the same thing and get a different outcome — anywhere in the world…