Tuesday, August 7, 2007

EVERYONE’S A CRITIC

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2007 at 12:44 PM

Jack White continues his quest to win friends and influence people via his recent interview with Interview Magazine, in which he takes on the Fourth Estate. "Journalists are inherently the laziest people on earth,” the White Stripes frontman told the magazine. “Even in the age of Google, they don't do any work to check what they're writing about.

I'd say 90 per cent of what they get is from the press release. We have fun putting things in there -- like in the press release for Elephant, somebody inserted a joke about how none of our studio equipment was made after 1963. Before you knew it, people thought we wouldn't touch a piece of equipment unless it's 60 years old or something! It gets to the point where you're answering questions based on a joke somebody made.

Anytime I pick up a music magazine, I assume 90 per cent of it is incorrect, so I make up my own things to believe.

Everyone knows the phrase 'Don't believe everything you read,' but how many people actually practice it?"

Actually, Mr. White has a point here, especially these days in the blog era. During my last few years in L.A., I wrote a lot of artist bios for major and indie record labels. Sometimes, just to fill space, I’d add a point to the bio, which may have been valid but occasionally, as I said, was simply to fill space. I would later be shocked to see some of those very points turn up in reviews or articles about the said artist[s], even occasionally in the major newspapers and publications as mainstream as Entertainment Weekly. I did a bio for Ryan AdamsGold album in which I mentioned that one song sounded like the Who (it actually did, but only a little bit). I swear; every review I saw of that album brought up the Who comparisons. And, thus, ladies and gentlemen, rock history is written these days.

Personally, I’m with former Sex Pistol/radio DJ extraordinaire Steve Jones (find his show, Jonesy’s Jukebox, online for a treat) whose bio I did before leaving L.A. but who told me before I wrote it: “I never read a bio. I want to talk to someone one-to-one as mates, without having preconceived notions.”

Not sure this laziness was always so, but it’s very true in these blog days when everyone’s a critic. And Jack’s right; there is no excuse for it. There was a now deposed editor of a major publication in L.A. (who’ll remain nameless) who’d regularly write in the newspaper before a comment that she was giving as fact: “As far as I know

” or “As far I can tell

” And nine times out of 10, she’d be totally wrong. Generally, it would’ve taken no longer than a minute on Google to get the fact straight. Google is a wonderful tool; pity more music journalists don’t use it, since it’s made our jobs so much easier. Then there was the Lindsey Buckingham review in Blender last winter in which the writer said one specific song was obviously about old girlfriend Stevie Nicks. Only problem with that theory is that said song was written by Donovan

and probably years before Nicks and Buckingham even met. Just to give two examples off the top of my head. Everyone makes mistakes and errors; even in the so-called golden era of music journalism (and I’m setting myself up here for readers to pounce the first time I make one).

But it really does seem to be a blog era thang or an evolution of it. “If I believe it’s so, then it must be; facts be damned.” As my friend Charles Cross, the Cobain/Hendrix biographer and former publisher of The Rocket, recently wrote to me: “Everyone thinks in today's media world that they can be a rock critic.... Now that itself would make an interesting story.”

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