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In a piece for Time Out Chicago this week, longtime Roctober editor and Chic-a-Go-Go producer Jake Austen wrote about the Monks documentary showing at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. As the piece explains, Monks frontman Gary Burger is coming to town for the film screening Saturday--and then sticking around to play a set of Monks tunes on Sunday night at the Empty Bottle with masked garage heroes the Goblins as his backing band. What the piece fails to mention is that the Goblins is Austen's band.
Forgive the lecture, but one of the basic rules of journalism is that you don't write about stuff that you have a direct stake in--like your own band's show. I'm a longtime fan of Austen, whose boundless enthusiasm for his obsessions (one of which is the Monks) is one of the most appealing things about most of his endeavors. I have no doubt that the same enthusiasm that led to his involvement with the show motivated the article. But it creates the appearance of an ethical problem, which in journalism basically is an ethical problem.
Here's the thing though: writers get paid to write, but editors get paid to know better. I know the Goblins wear masks and use pseudonyms to keep their real identities "secret," but I'm willing to lay odds that the music staff at Time Out were in on this particular not-so-secret secret. This is bad news for journalism standards, but great news for Chicago musicians, who are sick and tired of having to go through the whole rigmarole of persuading some middleman to write about their shows.