Jay Smooth on T-Pain’s “Endorsement” of Sean Hannity

*Insert everything Jay Smooth says here*

I don’t like being a straight co-signer, but I’m not sure I could have said it any better than Jay Smooth did. There really is nothing worse than the arrogantly uninformed person. It’s unfortunately one of the biggest flaws in the wider hip-hop community/consciousness (or lack thereof), and it will continue to be exploited until there is a big change.

I would have defended T-Pain because Sean Hannity is the type of bully that would treat an “endorsement” from an otherwise uninformed rapper as a game. It’s something you know he went home to tell his buddies about, in that “oh those rappers” tone.

“Hey Bill, guess who I got on camera today saying ‘Conservative Victory 2010?'”


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Hip-Hop [Journalism] is Dead -or- Did it Ever Exist?

Who Killed It?

While journalists in all facets of the industry argue about the future of their craft, hip-hop media has been one area of journalism that has almost entirely jumped shipped for anything online and digital.

In a lot of ways, the digital shift has reinvigorated the genre through the access it has granted. But for Chris Faraone, it didn’t really address a fundamental problem.

“Unfortunately, there’s never been a lot of good hip-hop journalism,” he said, “because the hip-hop community doesn’t understand what good journalism is.”

Chris Faraone

Faraone, a writer at the Boston Phoenix, is proudly a self declared old school journalist. Often seen carrying around a reporter’s notebook, with a pen in his ear, you know what you’re getting with him. He’s made his name by covering hip-hop for Spin, YRB, The Source, and the now defunct Elemental.

His characterization of hip-hop journalism isn’t without merit. From Benzino promoting his career as an artist through The Source while he still owned the magazine, to alleged affairs between artists and female writers on staff, the horror stories are well known. Let’s just say its been less than harmonious and respectable.

“A lot of groupie bitches got into it. Male and female,” Faraone said.

The problem with hip-hop journalism as Faraone and many others see it, is simple really. The bread and butter of the craft is the album review, or anything that discusses an artist’s music. The phenomenon became that some people had trouble seperating their fandom from being objective or offering any criticism. They were fanbois, as Faraone puts it. In other genres, it’s sometimes a badge of honor to have never given a good review.

“Some of the early stuff was written by straight white-voyeurs, the Rolling Stone magazines of the world, who went into the South Bronx and wrote about what they saw,” Faraone said.

The trend of hip-hop media migrating to blogs that provide more MP3’s than reviews would seem like the nail in the coffin to journalists of Faraone’s mold. In some instances, this view has been vindicated. The most relevant rap outlets to many are Nah Right, 2 Dope Boyz, and Rap Radar, and most do not resemble Faraone’s brand of journalism at all.

This new reality of content providing left many wondering where journalists fit into the equation. Faraone has hardly let this stop him.

A few years ago, he co-founded the popular Boston hip-hop blog Jump The Turnstyle, his stories are among the most read on the Boston Phoenix’s website, and he maintains a strong presence on Twitter and Facebook. Not bad for an “old school journalist.”

Perhaps we’re all a bit too unfair to “old school journalists” when discussing their ability to cope with new media and finding their place in it. Faraone could easily make you look silly if you dismiss him like that, as he talks about the internet as something exciting and full of new opportunities for journalists.

“Instead of feeling paralyzed, like I know a lot people do, you should feel completely liberated,” Faraone said, “the quality is up to you, especially if you don’t have an editorial process… The potential is fuckin’ limitless.”

Faraone’s optimism is not completely lost on the younger generation either.

Zach Cole, of Potholes in My Blog

Zach Cole is a 20 year old college student and co-founder of Potholes in My Blog, a popular hip-hop site that’s centered around its album reviews and written content.

When you speak to Cole about his approach to hip-hop journalism, it is not that different from Faraone’s. Like Faraone, Cole gets hundreds of emails per week from artists who are looking to get their music reviewed, and much like Faraone, Cole goes through every one of the requests.

“A lot of bloggers complain about that aspect of it, they don’t like getting hit up to listen to stuff. It’s understandable, but at the same time though, when you sign on to be a blogger, you accept a new responsibility that you are a tastemaker and you have a responsibility to take these requests and give it some kind of feedback. Otherwise, there’s not going to be any music progression. Somebody has to listen to that album,” Cole said.

Cole’s enterprising ways have earned him jobs reviewing music at Rhapsody and Urb Magazine.

Whether or not Cole’s personality and approach have been influenced by new media is hard to say. Talking to him however, you certainly get the feeling that he could be a rarity among the new generation (ie: my generation). A hopeless romantic maybe?

“Hip-hop journalism doesn’t really exist,” Faraone said shaking his head as we sat in the Quiznos next to Fenway Park.

I’m not sure I’m ready to give up quite yet though.


Click Here for the feature photo set (Flickr)

To my non-NU Journalism Department readers (ie: most of you): this is an updated version of a similar story I posted a few weeks ago. The story you just read is a modified version for Dan Kennedy’s class. Feel free to comment or dispute either!


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Why do Tea Party people insist on calling themselves “Tea Baggers?”

Don’t they know a certain activity owns the market on that word?


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Lunch with Chris Faraone (VIDEO)

Chris and I met up nearly a month ago to discuss the past, present and future of hip-hop journalism for a story I was writing for class. He has always epitomized to me what an old school journalist embodies (a rarity in hip-hop reporting), so I figured that as far as the Boston scene goes, I didn’t have to look much farther than him.

These are some highlights from our conversation that didn’t necessarily make the final story, but definitely needed to be put out there. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


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Are Journalists Averted to Entrepreneurship by Default?

I love journalism.

Journalists clearly love their craft and their business (or what’s left of it). The problem is that most journalists are stubborn. For instance, they have to know that in a global sense, there is a need for their skills. Heck, this is the argument of most print-journalists who rally against the internet. So how does that make them stubborn? Well, there’s plenty of opportunities to pursue that utilize the same skills they covet so much. But they don’t pursue these opportunities.

Every day, I hear journalism industry outsiders advocate for our skill-set and things we could be doing. Even today, Dan Gregory of Northeastern’s Entrepreneurship faculty advocated for the skills journalists bring to the table in entrepreneurial ventures. He gave a bunch of case studies that show that journalists have skills in the workforce that place them in the upper percentile of desired labor.

Here’s an easy one: Familiarity with use of a communications mediums can land you a job in a marketing department.

It’s tough though, because many journalists just want to be writers. They want to report and chase the story, and all these “side hustles” just divert from that. Maybe it’s not the answer journalists are looking for, but it’s the only lead anyone has right now.

Who knows, maybe people are pursuing these opportunities and they don’t pan out. It’s a desperate economy with desperate people.

If I may make a plea to all the intelligent, thoughtful people who label themselves journalists: can we get a little less of this “self help” mentality as it relates to journalism? Sometimes I feel like all you guys do anymore is tell me how to save the industry.

The discussion is a valuable one, but if some of you split your time a wee bit more, and embraced the tactics of a WikiLeaks, maybe you would have gotten the scoop before them.

All this self-help talk of how to save journalism is really the biggest turn-off about journalism to me these days. I’ll be damned if this blog ends up as one of them…

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Blog Comments: Where Everybody Knows Your Name!

In some ways, I really make a habit of avoiding the conversation of what to do about commenters on news sites. The questions of “Should we allow comments?” or  “Should we require real names?” is kind of irrelevant to me as a 22 year old American male who grew up with the internet.

To me, it’s kind of like peanut butter and jelly. Why not have comments? You can’t have the internet without the interaction. It’s like spaghetti without meatballs. How can you argue against it?

But, I know the arguments. Philosophically, I think we agree, but it’s just not something I care to spend a lot of time talking about, because what we should be talking about is how to get quality comments, not arguing whether or not to require real names. I know, though, it’s one way people see as a way to encourage quality interaction.

Quite honestly, I ignore comments on news sites for two reasons: there’s far too many for any intelligent or readable dialogue to go on and there’s hardly a sense of community.

I remember reading a story on the New York Times website a few months ago about how dirty our drinking water  is across the country. It was such a good story that I felt felt compelled to write a comment. Interestingly enough, I noticed the comment section was filled with largely insightful and interesting comments, but I had trouble making much sense of anything, as there were simply too many comments to know what to do with them. Who wants to shout out 30 different people with a bunch of “@’s.”

This all leads me to my larger point that there’s no community on big paper sites. Sure, there could be, but it’d be huge, and kind of hard to establish that feeling of “belonging” that blogs often offer. That’s the paradox of the internet, we love the exposure and access of a worldwide platform, but always strive to make it feel like a small neighborhood community. Hello, Twitter!

That’s why on the Nah Right comments, if you’re a commenter, it’s the place where “Everbody knows your name!” I’m serious, if you’re there enough, people know what you’re going to say. Now, the Nah Right comments don’t exactly stay on topic, but it’s more of a community that most sites could ever hope to achieve.

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What was wrong with the way we were aggregating content before?

Google News is popular because of the customization and sheer amount of information on one page.

Digg is popular because there’s interaction in that aggregation.

Blogs are popular because they give everyone a voice, when they feel they have something to say.

What all these have in common is that they were innovative, and gave users a reason to flock to each. Their niches were narrowly defined and the look was something new. We knew what we were getting.

It’s a noble effort to combine all of these into one service and think this can form a synergy in creating the perfect news reading experience. However, News Trust is not exactly that. It could be, but it has some very basic flaws.

Firstly, it suffers from a poor visual layout, as well as poor aesthetics in general. The title catchphrase “Your Guide to Good Journalism,” is confusing, frankly. Is this site a guide/educational resource like Poynters? It’s plainly evident that this is an aggregation site with stories to read as if it were a news site. Thus, their title makes little sense.

However, the fundamental flaw here is that they may be asking too much of users to submit stories and rate them in the manner they do. Maybe if the process was streamlined, it would be better. It seems simple enough as it is presented, however, it took many people a few minutes to figure out how exactly to get it working properly. At this point, I do not even know if the stories I have submitted even saved the review properly. Quite simply, they do not offer me much at face value that I can’t get on Google News or Twitter. For one thing, Google News has better customization tools, and the people I follow on Twitter are already people whose taste I trust.

I would like to end on a high note and say that News Trust has incredible value if it could garner an active community that really brought a diverse array of stories to the table and actually garnered discussion. Valuable, educational and lively discussion that challenges us all to think.

Sometime you just need to remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, especially when the wheels are working.

For those interested, take a look at three stories I submitted to News Trust and how I used their rating system. Go through yourself if you have the time and do the same. Drop me a line and let me know what your experience is.

[These submissions are all pending review, I apologize if you cannot see them right away]

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