|"Never Trust A Journo"|
|Written by Jason Daniel Baker|
|Sunday, 13 February 2011 05:00|
The mass media can be a fickle beast and good press can turn to bad press in a heart beat. Just as quickly good press and bad press can turn into NO press. It is debatable which of the three is worse.
Good press is good, right? Definitely, right up until people who read it start expecting a certain level of behaviour from someone they've never met. Good press is not always good at managing expectations.
Bad press is bad, right? In a world of moral subjectivity that which is bad is subjective. A hunter clubbing a baby seal is a bad guy except to other seal hunters.
No press? Depends, most of the time upon what you do and how comfortable you are with it. For a criminal it should go without saying that no press is the best kind of press. But a lot of the worst ones loved the spotlight.
It is an arrogant role the ladies and gentlemen of the press can sometimes assume in making and breaking the reputations of those who appear in the news. When one is attacked by a group the public can mistake the feeding frenzy as somehow being a result of democratic consensus when it is merely an expression of the will of a few determined people who have the time, inclination (or paid incentive) and skill to put fingers to keyboard.
In such instances a mindset reminiscent of a high school cafeteria can appear to hold sway with fully the same level of immature superficial cruelty and acceptance of a malicious fabrication or misinterpretation of fact.
In the music industry an irresponsible publicist can tell a musician or band that any press is good press. This is in fact true particularly in the information age. But a publicist can accomplish his or her goal of getting the word out, stimulating interest with the mass media in order to make and maintain valuable press contacts best by actually protecting the privacy of the artist.
It is a huge reason why bands and solo artists tend to want to employ people who believe in them, keep their secrets and respect their privacy. A rank amateur is sometimes preferable in such a role if only for reasons of personal loyalty rather than loyalty to a record label. In theory the rest can be taught and it can be reassuring to have someone trustworthy in such a crucial role even if they make mistakes.
How does one know who to trust? Logically the people who know secrets but don't divulge them are people who will continue to know secrets and not divulge them. A group of people like these can be an invaluable human shield as countless artists have discovered over the years. Often, amongst these are sympathetic journalists.
Seemingly there is always a bit of a distance between journalist and subject whether it happens to be a cultivated distance or not. An air of suspicion still exists and each side can be mistaken in thinking they are being used by the other. One can choose be frustrated over it or amused by it. Uber Rock's own Gaz E related his own experience in this regard; "I had an instance recently with a band who I am pretty tight with being scared to confirm something with me because, y'know, 'never trust a journo' - made me laugh!"
I loathe contrived human interest stories about bands or artists whether they are on TV news, radio or print. I couldn't care less if the bass player in a band is the great-grandson of Stalin's proctologist or the singer huffed Krylon when she was 15 or the drummer masturbates to He-Man cartoons. To me that is tabloid fodder but it is kind of funny when interview subjects worry that you might be interested in any of it. Sadly their worries can seem quite justified at times.
Artists themselves may face the undeserved consequences of rumour and while they seldom face it alone the people they love can be dragged in or, believe things about them that are not true which can, at times, be even worse. Their private lives should not be the issue. Their music should be. For some heavily prefabricated "artists" their private lives (or hyped versions of their imaginary private lives) are intrinsic to their appeal. Infotainment reporters who follow such silliness should be ashamed of themselves and often are.
The media distortion of the private lives of celebrities runs both ways. Journalists flat out refused to report some things that might be interpreted negatively of certain people. Athletes like Babe Ruth (once did four hookers in a single night) and Ty Cobb (several instances of criminal assault on family and complete strangers) did things that shocked even the most seasoned of journalists. But the press covered it all up.
As for musicians prime examples can be found in tapes made of interviews with the Beatles. The British press, often much older and somewhat more prudent than their interview subjects, acted like publicists for them and actively protected their respective reputations up until the band finally split. The American press was not so forgiving and gleefully took Lennon's infamous "bigger than Jesus" quote out of context until Christian wackos across North America were burning the band's records.
There are plenty of us who just write about bands for the music. I'm personally one for showing up early to hear the soundcheck as well as the actual show. I'm sure there is a scientific word for such an ill predilection and that it is very difficult to pronounce.
I get accused of hyping up bands whose members I am friends with. I think that is unfair. I say what I think but if I'm not as enthusiastic about something they have done it can be difficult to motivate myself to give them a write-up of any kind. That is the reality. Another one is that if I don't see a band for a while I can forget about them except to occasionally wonder if they're even still together.
I do own up to having some regard for those that treat me right. None of the very few of us (and there are seemingly fewer of us all the time) who cover the music scene is immune to giving some personal attention to bands (though not necessarily actual coverage) that are nice people. But in the end if the band isn't any good nothing anyone writes about them is going to have much of a difference one way or the other.
I'm not one of those that has given a band a bad review just because they were jerks to me. Few of them have been complete yo-yos (and the ones that have know who they are) but it is much easier to ignore them and let them wallow in obscurity. I suspect obscurity is, deep down, what a lot of musicians really want as many of them clearly have trouble dealing with life in the public eye.