Alright, it’s back. The newest episode of the podcast is perfect to promote on this blog. Basically Memphis area political blogger Steve Ross and I spent about an hour yapping about media issues and I edited it (roughly) down to about half an hour and served it up. I think its pretty good. If you’ve got the time, go check it out here or subscribe on iTunes here.
I had a feeling this was going to happen. Yesterday a barage of opinions informed and otherwise exploded in Memphis when our local Scripps-Howard owned Commercial Appeal announced it was setting up a pay wall.
When I told my wife about the move she said, “Well, you knew it would happen someday.”Which is interesting considering everyone is supposed to believe that the web would be free forever.
Making that big ol’ thing costs money. For too long subscription rates have dropped and website ad revenue has yet to make up anything close to the gap. Its just numbers folks. Its gonna happen.
The outrage on twitter was, as it always is, silly. People who are generally smart complained that the newspaper sucks (or more delicately, ”Isn’t what it used to be” which can be said of any institution whether true or not and folks will click their tongues in approval) and they won’t pay for it. Which I find an odd argument.
First, if it sucks so bad that you won’t pay for it, why do you use it at all? And if you don’t, why do you care what they decide to charge?
Second, nothing is “what it used to be.” But many of the complaints that consumers have with their local newspaper have to do with the cheapening of news. The idea that corporate entities with their minds solely on the bottom line are slashing quality to make up for dwindling profit margins. This is true. So how then to stop the further cheapening? Certainly not by continuing with the free online / paid in print model that’s ruling the roost.
I’m a big fan of Slate. I think its a great example of how a website can succeed with quality thoughtful journalism. I love their podcasts as well. Particularly the sports-themed “Hang Up and Listen” and the “Political Gabfest.” Slate is smart and well written. Sadly, it can also be insular and pretentious. Rarely, some of their content is downright cringeworthy.
Such was my feeling listening to this week’s “Culture Gabfest.” Which I both enjoy and find frustrating in nearly equal measure. There’s no question that the three principals (Steven Metcalf, Julia Turner and Dana Stevens) are brilliant and well heeled in their knowledge. Sometimes though, they venture in to a realm of pop culture that seems…uncomfortable.
In this week’s episode, the group discussed the new Beastie Boy’s album. As a cranky old white hip hop connoisseur I knew this would be trouble. It was.
I won’t go into too many details but I found it…less than thoughtful. In a fit of frustration I went to the Culture Gabfest’s facebook page and wrote:
“Listening to Steven talk about Hip Hop is like listening to Michelle Bachman discuss evolution”
I should’ve just stayed quiet.
I wasn’t the only one to think the segment was sub par, but I certainly was the only one to be called “gratuitously obnoxious” by Steven (a phrase which fits me far better than Steven could possibly know)
So I deleted the comment and ignored his rambling, four paragraph response in which he suggests hip hop’s penchant for keepin’ it real as being the real source of my snide remark and then tried to gain some credibility by saying he preferred Afrika Bambaataa to any of the Def Jam artists. Then, he flipped the script and demanded that someone produce a thoughtful history of hip hop on par with a book about the Beatles that he loves.
There is no point arguing with a cultural critic. He has his opinion. His opinions are the tools he uses to pay his mortgage. There is no way you can question a critic. He (or she) cannot be wrong. He cannot be proven to be anything less than an expert in whatever field he is discussing. Its vital.
If you want to discuss World War Two with a Civil War historian, he will most certainly be knowledgable and interesting but it ain’t in his wheelhouse. At the same time, however, he’s unlikely to admit that he’s wrong or out of his depth in any way. Because well.. damn it, he’s a historian.
I shouldn’t have been so glib but it doesn’t really matter. Its just a reminder that while the internet may encourage back talk and discussion, it rarely inspires us to consider our own misconceptions or misinformation. It only seems to harden them.
Its not easy to put something that sprang directly from your mind into the public eye and not cringe with terror.
Making and then trying to sell a piece of your creativity is like you’re standing naked in a room full of teenagers. Some of them are going to jeer but mostly, they’re just judging you. I’m fascinated by those that can throw themselves into the traffic of public opinion and seemingly come back from it unscathed.
Regardless, the desire to make something overrules the fear of other’s judgement. it seems like some artists just know that somehow, their going to have to take a bunch of minor cuts to make something that you’re proud of. Bill had a great grasp and insight into that.
Like most Memphians, I basked in the glory of media reports of the beat down that our beloved Griz laid on the rapidly aging San Antonio Spurs. I absorbed more than my share of write-ups, blog posts and tweets about the game. Some where stunningly beautiful and full of talent and sweat yet others were utter shit.
From Clay Bailey’s spartan AP write up to Bethlehem Shoals artful GQ piece, I read it all. I read 3 Shades of Blue and I read Memphisport. I read the Ball Don’t Lie and I read the Basketball Jones. I read ESPN. I read Fox. It has been blog post bukkake (DO NOT GOOGLE, DAD) In the end, that orgy of round ball writing left me with a sour taste.
I have now experienced the Kubler-Ross model. As first, I couldn’t believe it. Every word no matter how poorly drafted was amazing. I was like a man woken from deep sleep, struggling to be sure it was all real.
Then the glittery scales fell from my eyes and I began to see the truth. I became angry. “Why does this writing have to be so bad? Why are these websites so goddamn bad?” Then I began to bargin. “Maybe its not thet they’re so bad, maybe you’re just being overly critical because you’re so emotionally involved with the subject. You have no objectivity.” Then I was just sad. As I read yet another joyless piece about how awesome the Grizzlies are, I just lost faith. Finally I just accepted it. People who love to write also often suck at it.
I may, in fact, count myself among their number.
I’m working on final projects doing some freelance work, working at the shop and have still recorded and posted two episodes of the podcast. So forgive me if this dear ol’ media blog has remained dusty. In truth I don’t have much to say about the state of media (except, OMGOMGOMG GRIZZLIES). I do have something to say about the creative process, so try to bear with me.
Trying to make things is hard. Making stuff requires a focus and commitment that is terrifying. You put yourself out there. You openly courting comparisons both sensible and butt crazy. In the first episode of the podcast, Lindsey and I discussed our thin-skinned natures sharing the crap we make. In the second, Brent and I talked about the ego maniacal power of rock stars. When you talk to creative people, self awareness just seems to come up at some point.
Every time I write something, I question it. Its simply part of the process. As I write this sentance, I’m asking myself if this post has any merit. Should I even be writing this at all? The awesome DJ blogger/vlogger J Smooth called this “the Little Hater“
So why the hell did I start podcasting? Why would I take up something that I have no background in, little training for and that hundreds maybe thousands of people do better? I have no clue. It seemed like the right idea at the time and I thought it would be a fun idea. In just two episodes, I’ve learned a ton.
I need to listen more and talk less. I always knew I was a blabber mouth, I just didn’t know I was obnoxious. I interrupt people. Jerks do that. i don’t know squat about a bunch of things that would really make the podcast a more polished and interesting project. But I don’t, so I learn and I’ll try harder.
Internet person Merlin Mann (who I really agree with and enjoy 98% of the time) said that his job is not to be inspired. His job is to make the “clackity-noise.” That being the sound of the pounding of a keyboard. The only way to actually make something is to DO-IT. So I’m trying and I hope that some of you try to see through the rough edges, interruptions and poorly thought out interviews and posts. I’ll try as hard as I can to keep the gentle rocking of the clackity-noise going.
I’m stupid nervous about it but also proud. Its rough in places and I have a lot to learn about interviewing, editing and shutting up when the guest is talking. I hope very much that you’ll take the time to listen to it and let me know what you think.