What to Do With Music Journalism: Village Voice's Maura Johnston Weighs In

Categories: pondering
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We all know what  Maura Johnston (music editor over at our sister publication The Village Voice) is talking about in this Daily Swarm piece; we deal with all these problems daily here at Heard Mentality. But I think this conversation with Eric Ducker outlines all these challenges in a concise way that we feel obliged to refer to it as an explanation/apology/qualifier for the way things in the [music] blogosphere (I.e., please understand that some things are beyond our control). After the jump, a Cliff's Notes version of the most pertinent points (although the whole interview is wonderful, read it here.)

On how music writers almost always need to do more research (but never have enough time to do so):

MJ: I also think that the nature of the machine these days almost requires the quick-and-dirty approach: output is paramount, quality is not - unless you're talking about a headline's SEO quality.


On whether writers of posts laden with do it "purposefully":

MJ: I honestly can't tell. Part of me wants to think that they are because of every Internet writer's innate knowledge of traffic being a "good" thing. But then so many of them are just so poorly executed and tossed-off. It's like the worst parodies of blogging put forth for people to consume.

On knowing that chasing hits does not equal good writing:
MJ: The way of writing about music has just fundamentally shifted over the past ten years, and exponentially so over the past 18 months. Aggregation is crucial; content doesn't have to be insightful to "perform," or even factually accurate. Getting retweeted by BreakingNews or someone with hundreds of thousands of followers is a sign that you're doing a good job. It almost doesn't matter what is in your story.


A story on a musician isn't validated just because it's published...in Esquire:

MJ: [The Lana Del Rey pieces in T Magazine and Esquire, Nicki Minaj in New York, Kreayshawn in GQ] all came from a place where certain suppositions were made about music and culture and their relationship. There was no process of fact checking, it seemed, beyond "Oh, I heard this at a cocktail party once." The GQ piece had a bit about the Cooking Dance being created "for white people," which I guess was supposed to be a joke but which was disheartening to anyone who knows about Lil B. The treatments of the subjects - all women! - were pretty superficial. Tom Junod's Lana Del Rey piece for Esquire was just vile, sexist shit that didn't belong on a followed-by-zero-people Tumblr, let alone in an Ellie-winning magazine.

On what to do with music journalism: 

MJ: More insightful stuff might not be at the pace of your bigger aggregators, but articles that say something different and new, or that expose an under-heralded act, need to come back into fashion. It might not get the slew of readers that a hit piece or a quickie obit does, but it'll help elevate the discourse...I know Pitchfork gets shit on a lot, and it is by no means perfect, but I really think that they and the new Spin are doing it right: getting smart people to be excited about music. Because being excited about music is still an infectious, wonderful thing!

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