Bait and Switch? | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Bait and Switch?




To whom it may concern:

I have about had it with some of the Reader's brand of journalism. Peter Margasak's December 5 article in Post No Bills is annoyingly peculiar. Its intro is dedicated to commending local artists for their resilience, as they release albums on their own indie labels. That would have been a great premise to stand by. However, Mr. Margasak then proceeds to review eight recent local indie releases that fail to discuss "first-class production values" that were so endearingly introduced, and positive words are few and far between. It is perfectly OK to offer an unfavorable review when it is validated and fair. From elementary school to J-school, writers are trained in a small number of easily remembered fundamental guidelines, among them the classic "Tell them what you're going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you told them." Finally, the writer blunders by discussing topics about which his brief but authoritative pontifications reveal he has less knowledge than is reasonably required to qualify for deliberation in a public forum.

The writer falls short on two prominent counts:

(1) The delightful intro was not at all indicative of the heavily negative spin the article would quickly take and maintain. After reading the first paragraph, I thought the story would be a sort of special-interest feature on the perseverance of some of our local artists. Instead, I read little more than a collection of potshots taken at struggling local artists for lack of originality, substance, and general inaptitude. The reader is continually reminded of each artist's influences, and the artists were in several cases then criticized for not being as good as "the originals." In sum, the story does not flow logically at all, with its positive intro covering one topic and then its negative body covering a significantly different one. Not only were topical expectations not set in the intro, the reader is entirely misled about the story's upcoming content.

(2) With regard to the Mighty Blue Kings review. It seems that the Reader is not nearly as concerned with the stances it takes, but rather very much so with offering opinions that are in diametric contrast to those offered by more mainstream publications. This trend has consistently manifested itself in the Reader for as far back as I can remember. The Chicago Tribune recently gave the Mighty Blue Kings a rave review, as have a handful of other high-profile books over the past several months. There is no empirically correct stance on the Mighty Blue Kings or any artist, as musical taste lies in the ear of the beholder, and so the Reader and its respective writers are perfectly entitled to offer negative reviews. But the Reader's insistence on assuming counterculture opinions is what bleeds through on Mr. Margasak's review. I know nothing of the writer's background, but I am more inclined to subscribe to the blues community's embracing of the Mighty Blue Kings as bona fide and respectable artists. To refer to the band as "hacks" and compare it to the Royal Crown Revue is to miss the mark by a long shot, and it is perhaps the most obvious display of the writer's lack of familiarity with the artist and the genre.

Simply put, it is growing tiresome if not predictable to wade through some of the Reader's transparent journalistic guise. Opinions are limitless and certainly allowed, but are only worth their ink when validated. It is too often that I read articles that are loaded with verbosity and references which are only sometimes used properly. If I could offer some advice, it is to put down the thesaurus and exchange some of the extraneous and oft unrelated references for healthier portions of knowledge and intuitiveness. The world only needs one Village Voice.

Eric R. Maloney

N. Lincoln

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