In an e-mail, a friend asked, “Do you believe objectivity is something a music writer should aspire to?”
I am not sure. I also do things like pick Patty Griffin over Courtney Love [when I am choosing people to interview] because I value her art more. There are a few different roles that journalists play. One thing we do is report, and reporting should definitely be objective — although things have been changing with submersive journalism and to a lesser extent, community journalism.
When I was a journalism student and then reporter, I wanted nothing to do with this and avoided writing features because of their subjective nature. I still find some of the biases in music journalism to be gross and a misstep that does the opposite of helping readers.
But there is another thing that journalists do, which is even more necessary in this social media age. Journalists cut through the noise; they find the things that busy people don’t have time to find on their own. As a columnist, this is more my job, finding and highlighting important things for readers.
That is obviously, inherently, a choice, a bias…choosing to put one thing in a paper and not another…choosing to interview Patty Griffin and to ignore Courtney Love.
But once I’ve made that choice, there is the question of how I carry that out. To do it well, you have to go back to step one and use reporting skills.
Reporting skills help me avoid one of the worst games played by some music journalists. When music journalists play the game of cool, they are being selfish. When an article comes across like the writer is showcasing their own knowledge as opposed to focusing on the art, that is the opposite of serving readers. I get bent out of shape when I see writers doing that.
They are propping themselves up above the art….Critics often fall here…Serving the ego is not serving the reader, or the art you are supposedly trying to give attention to…
What do you think? Have there been times when you wanted to read about a type of music or a musician you like and you put the paper down in disgust? What was it about the story that drove you nuts?