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.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't have said that better myself if I tried.