On The Record: Probably My First Mea Culpa
This week’s column will probably be read by somewhere between 700 and 1,300 people, which is not particularly great. This is because it is mostly about Deerhunter and journalistic integrity, two things which — sadly — people don’t seem to care about all that much these days.
And yet, despite all that, I don’t have any hesitation writing it; sometimes things like “page views” and “unique visitors” aren’t as important as being professional, responsible and fair (that sound you hear is the ad-sales folks sending 10,000 volts of electricity coursing through my chair). So, that’s what I’m going to try to do right now.
See, Bradford Cox is pretty mad at me.
For those of you who don’t know, he’s the mastermind behind Deerhunter — a terrifyingly terrific and prolific band (last year alone they released an album, an EP and a single, all of which are great) — and Atlas Sound, his equally terrific and prolific solo project. I have an enormous amount of respect for him and his music (I named Deerhunter the “Band of the Year” in 2007 ), though that’s not completely why I’m writing this column: I’m doing it because I think he has a right to be upset with me.
Here’s why: Over the weekend, Cox, doing what he’s done countless times before, gave away free music on his blog, this time in the form of a “Virtual 7-inch” that contained two Atlas songs. The only problem was that this time, when fans attempted to download the tunes, they somehow ended up also downloading the entire contents of Cox’s MediaFire account (he had accidentally left it unlocked) — which included demos, song sketches, two fully completed albums and a whole bunch of photos of his friends and family.
Naturally, when that material began to make their way around file-sharing sites, Cox reacted much in the same way anyone would: He sort of lost it, posting (and then deleting) a series of messages on his blog that ran the gamut from denial to anger to bargaining and finally, at around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, acceptance. Basically, he rifled through the entire grieving process in a little more than 12 hours. Could he have taken a step back, perhaps counted to 100, or physically separated his fingers from the keyboard? Yes. Did he? No. And maybe neither would you or I, for that matter.
Of course, on Monday, when I wrote about the entire incident on MTV’s Newsroom blog, I wasn’t considering any of that. I basically recapped the entire event in a condescending tone, put words in Cox’s mouth (the whole “Blames You” headline), and did not bother attempting to contact him for further comment or clarification. I was irresponsible and one-sided. In other words, I covered the whole thing the way your average blogger would.
That bums me out. Far be it from me to consider myself some paragon of journalistic integrity — I am, after all, the same guy who penned a passive-aggressive “open letter” to Diddy — but, for God’s sake, I didn’t even do my job correctly. This was amateur.
And yes, I could blame it all on the fact that I am only in the office one day a week (thanks to “FNMTV”), but the simple fact is that I took the lazy route. I just wrote in my “bloggy voice,” filed the piece and moved on.
I hate everything about that last sentence. I can’t stand the fact that I now write in two tones: “newsy” and “bloggy.” I loathe the fact that I ignored the feeling in the pit of my stomach and filed the post anyway. And I’m sort of depressed that no one — not an editor, not a commenter — called me out on the shoddy work I did. Mostly because I think that confirms my fear that not enough people care about journalistic integrity anymore.
Because, really, why would we? What standards should bloggers be held to — after all, they make no claims about being actual journalists. And furthermore, does being a good journalist even matter anymore, or is being snarky more important than being responsible, correct and fair?
I mentioned a second ago that no one took me to task for the blog post, but that isn’t exactly the case. Cox himself e-mailed me about it, and we had a fairly lengthy conversation. The general theme was that he was disappointed with the tone of the blog post. He said he reacted the way he did because someone on a message board had posted the leaked material under a pseudonym that made light of his deceased friend and bandmate Justin Bosworth, and he wished I would have attempted to contact him before filing the post.
I apologized and offered to do an interview with him so he could clear the air, but he declined. Ultimately, he accepted my apology, appreciated my sincerity and ended by saying that he was no longer upset, which sort of made me feel less guilty (but at the same time also made me want to crawl into a hole).
In some way, I’m sort of glad he didn’t want to respond, because that would’ve given me the satisfaction of being able to make this thing right. That’s never going to happen now, which is just another byproduct of me not doing my job and falling victim to the prevailing attitude of the times. It might seem goofy, but I’d like to promise to anyone who reads this — be it Bradford Cox or my college buddy Ernest Cox (no relation) — that I won’t let it happen again.
Don’t worry though. I’m sure next week I’ll be back with more fifth-grade humor and thinly veiled, thoroughly unfounded attacks against your favorite band. I am a journalist, after all.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Send ‘em to me at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.