rawkblog asked: Would you prefer we start an actual magazine on paper and ink? Genuinely curious. We want to make a website that just feels like a nice thing to read regardless of platform, that's one reason we're not including ads.
No, I wouldn’t.*
When I said Internet-based or -driven, that’s precisely what I meant: powered by the Internet—in that you are drawing your content from writers you primarily interact with over the Internet, promoting your publication to an audience that you’ve gained via your own presence on the Internet, and paying for the whole thing through a website that relies on donations from people you know in real life but also via the Internet (seriously, you should sell ads. I’m sure if you get a good designer they can make them look unobtrusive).
I think what you’re doing is ultimately pretty cool. I like the people you’ve brought on board; I read their work regularly. I also follow Grantland, The Classical, One Week // One Band, Negative Dunkalectics—you name it, and I probably read it. (I get paid, in part, to read, as most of you know. It’s pretty cool.) I understand that this is probably the future of people like me getting paid. I know you’re coming from an alt-weekly background, and that warms my heart, because I work for an alt-weekly.
But I’m tired of the fetishization of longform. Longform is so damn easy to write. I could turn the bleak-ass trip I took to Target tonight to buy Drano, dish soap, and mechanical pencils into a longform piece; I could write at least 1,500 words about what it means to be 23 years old, pacing in the frozen desserts aisle after a terrible day at work in which I listened to Teenage Fanclub’s “Alcoholiday” on repeat, ultimately grabbing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s because I wanted to eat it but it took me 10 minutes to get that point because I had just ran 5 miles and I will never lose the weight and I, I, I have body-image issues that I reckon with at 9 p.m. on Wednesday nights in the frozen desserts aisle at Target. I could pitch it to The Awl. I could pitch it to This Recording. I am not going to do this. I know it is a terrible idea—for me, and for an editor.
It’s infinitely harder to edit longform journalism, to push back on a writer who’s clearly put in some degree of work to give turn in so many words, to shape a bazillion-word piece into something that people will read joyfully—not even read, but glide through without believing that they’re reading, because it’s that good, that real, that vivid—without saying, “Christ, can’t this person shut up already?” and scrolling past into the next item on their Google Reader. A lot of long-ass shit out there is boring, poorly edited, and way too wrought with “I feel this and now I feel this because of this and this album played while I moved from here to there [Japandroids, Celebration Rock] and I’m broke but I called my mom and my grandmother’s dying [Dinosaur, Jr., I Bet on Sky] and therapy’s expensive and why won’t my ex-boyfriend just leave the country because I’ll just keep sleeping with him as long as he’s here [Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville] and I love my job but sometimes I hate it too [Lifetime, Hello Bastards] and I love what my body can do but I hate what it looks like and I applied for another credit card and maybe I’ll move to New York or L.A. and, and, and, and.”
You know what’s fucking hard—harder than making a good edit to a longform piece? Writing a smart, succinct, poignant blog post that gives a reader a reason to listen to something. I love track blogs run by people who genuinely love what they listen to. I am way more inclined to listen to something icoulddietomorrow or even Pitchfork’s Tracks blog posts than something that Coke Machine Glow has issued a long-ish review on.
If I weren’t so averse to writing music criticism, I’d probably pitch you. (I am personally, morally, whatever-ly averse to writing music criticism, and as much as I want to do it—if only to impress the 13-year-old that lurks in my brain, clutching a copy of Unfun—I don’t want to put my skin in a game that I largely dislike.) And it sounds as if, based on reading your Tumblr and the work of the people that will be associated with Uncool, you’ll be covering not just what albums sound like, but some music industry news, too. That’s awesome. Arts and business is a sweet spot, and the niche-y little world that reads about music regularly could do with a heavy dose of good reporting and smart criticism on the industry.
I realize in writing this I appear to be a) condemning some of the writing my friends have done and b) hypocritical—I write for The Billfold sometimes! I ramble on Tumblr! I hope none of you look at my totally-wrought-with-feeling, overshare-y Twitter account and read it side-by-side with this post! This post is over a thousand words long!
But when I saw your post about Uncool, I audibly groaned and said, “Not more of this shit.” I’m fatigued to the point that I’m being way too judgmental before you’ve even produced a product. I hate that I feel like that. But the Tomorrows and Somersaults and Grantlands (I would copy edit Grantland for free, because it appears not-copy edited most of the time) and even Rookies of the world (am I the only person on the planet that doesn’t shoot wads over Rookie? I think it’s because I am actually too close to the target age) have put me in this miserable headspace where I am like, “I will only read your 5,000 word piece if it is in Texas Monthly.” God, Texas Monthly writes some amazing fucking features.
I’m hard to please, have stupidly high standards because my job is wrangling copy, and am incredibly picky about what I think is good. But my taste is subjective, and I doubt that anyone else has this many subtle concerns about the prevalence of mediocre longform journalism. This post is as much about your feelings as it is about mine toward the general trend of longform online journalism, and that’s why it’s so long. No one has asked me to lay all this out before.
I just don’t want to groan when I read the content on your shiny, new site, too.
*I”m drowning in New Yorkers, New York magazines, Vanity Fairs, and a variety of academic journals on planning, architecture, and history. My carbon footprint does not need to grow with another print edition of something, and I emphatically do not fetishize or elevate print journalism, despite the fact that I am paid to put out a print product on a weekly basis
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