Sunday, 16 August 2009

Music Journalism for Toddlers.

After deciding that the real world was...well just a tad too real I am about to start an MA at City University in the field of Magazine Journalism. Last week I received my (frightningly long) reading list. On said reading list was a title that caught my eye, and I decided I would begin with this book.

Good Writing for Journalists by Angela Phillips promises a lot in the title, and whether it fulfilled its actual purpose is now completely irrelevant because it has saved my life. I wish I could say I had it in my jacket pocket and it stopped a bullet. Being rather thin I'm glad to say it never had to try. Instead it pointed to me (metaphorically) and said "Jonny, one day you will be a damn fine music journalist, and work for whatever magazine/website you choose".

And how did it tell me this? By pointing out the obvious - That music journalism today is, by and large, and in the style of a music journo.

"Like the bastard child of a dyslexic and a Jeremy Clarkson impersonator." (read poorly written, self important tripe)

Despite being among the most popular forms of journalism and, in my opinion, one of the most important, the quality of writing is nowhere near the standard of other cultural journalisms.

All to often we try to be witty, cutting, original, subversive and offensive. I believe this is because to be a music journalist you don't necessarily have to have a journalist background. If you have an ear and a passion for music, and know a few people in the industry you are half way there. I understand that a slating review is exciting to read and an absolute must for music enzines, but the need for such reviews has overtaken the need for balanced, contextual and factual reviewing. Opinion seems to be far more important than eloquence (to put that in context, taxi drivers have opinions, should they be allowed to air them in print?) Like bulldogs bread to have noses so flat many couldn't breath, NME has recruited writers gradually more and more hateful to the point where when they hear bad music they choke and gasp out a review of such malignance that it makes readers react with pure venom themselves (see here - and make sure you read the comments.)

Music journalism of old used to be written for its love of bands, festivals, gigs and albums. Now we take as much pleasure in hating bands as we do loving them, and as journalists we have to rise above this or at the very least justify ourselves when we can't. By writing on the manner of the article I have linked we take away the ability to debate, to critique and to enjoy. There is no music in the world that deserves the slamming that Sam Isaac got (even the schiztophrenic NME seem to think so, having given his single a glowing review). NME, by recruiting these lamtentable and hateful "free spirits" are slowly destroying music journalism, people's interest in it and the forum for the furtherment of musical brilliance.

Knowing this means that I can endevour to be a better journalist than all the "journalists" at NME, who ultimately have jobs that many writers would kill for. Reviewers have a unique opportunity, and therefore responsibility, to write and be a positive part of the world of music. When they waste it they become part of the problem they seek to slate, and to be a honest a toddler could write better reviews than most of them.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Paid Content rears its ugly head.

"Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good journalism,” - Rupert Murdoch 2009.

So the hours of debate, rolls of blog and endless tweets have finally resulted in something tangible. Murdoch has decided to charge for his site's content, starting sometime next summer. This means if you read the Times or the Sun (God help you) Fox news then you will have to chip in for the privilege in the future.

Or not. Murdoch is the first mogul to make this decision, and the rest of the industry is still umming and erring, so for now all you need to do is switch you online site for a different free one, there by giving Murdoch the biggest headache of his career. Or indeed wait for unhappy readers to log in, copy the content and give it away for free.

It seems he's made a tentative step towards paid content - no dates, no details, just a proverbial toe on the water. He has seen the NYTs failed attempt to charge for comment (they lost a large share of their readership), and although he must recognise its implications, has decided his model will work. He just doesn't seem to know what it is yet.

As Matthew Wells of the Guardian correctly points out, a major problem with the model is that however many companies take on such a model there will always be those that never will, and their share of online readership will come to dominate the market. In fact some already do - the BBC.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Comment sections are natures way of pointing out the weak.

I worry for the world. Not because of global warming, not because of terrorism or the super volcano under yellowstone national park...not even because of football hooliganism. I worry because some people in the world can watch this video - - and then feel the need to say this:

"AAHAHAHAHAHA THIS SHIT ISFCKN FUNNY LFMAO not like i would do that to a baby but this is funny x)"

Firstly learn to type, secondly learn real english, thirdly stop using abbreviations no one understands, fourthly stop feeding the paedophilia-fear flame and fourthly stop and think and realise that you would never do that to a baby because you would never put your hands together with your 10 year old mate in a crowded park, give birth to a live child then be asked to play football.

It's not about music I know - but its got to be said - comment sections are breeding grounds for idiots. If you aren't self aware enough to see your stupidity, even when its written for the whole world to see then please do the world a favour: unplug you computer, lick your fingers and shove your fingers in said socket.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Archbishop has no (facebook) friends

I'm sick of people telling the younger generation that technology is going to ruin our social abilities. Does the Archbishop ( really think that, when we step out squinting into the natural light and have to interact with a real person, we will lose our power of empathy without the persons "status" being plastered across their forehead? Or is he just reacting to something he doesn't truly understand?

If he has ever used such sites (and I sincerely doubt he has) he clearly has not realised the brilliant and powerful connections such sites can forge. I can keep in contact with friends all over the world, for free. When my friends go travelling I can see their photos, videos, blogs and messages all in real time. Now tell me how that reduces my ability to make and maintain friends. His Holiness would know what the Pope gets up to when he's not telling Africans that condoms spread AIDS. In fact I think we'd all like to know what man that stupid, blind and destructive does with his day.

The Archbishop claims that facebook specifically encourages quantity over quality in terms of relationships, but I have neither gained nor lost friends as a result of the online revolution. I have the same best friends I have had for 10 years. Yes I am in contact with more people than I would be if all I had was a phone, and yes those relationships are somewhat shallow and transient, but they an addition to my social circle, not a replacement for my core friends.

I find such claims so ridiculous I have to ask, are the Archbishop's comments just born out of jealousy of everyone else's friend count?