27 April 2009

a little rant on rolling stone.

in the spring of 2008, i was one of the dozen or so interns trying to sneak their foot in the ever-slamming door of the editorial department of rolling stone magazine.  i had worked my way up to this since the summer before my sophomore year of college: hopelessly naive, i had sent my resume off to wenner media in a huge manila envelope along with a cover letter that probably read something like "i dig music and i am different hire me please."  needless to say, i didn't get the editorial internship then, but i did my time at a theatre trade paper, the [then] poor man's esquire for the bro set which has since morphed into a hip-hop publication with tarantino-esque photo spreads, and the now [sadly] folded men's vogue over at conde nast.  i applied for an editorial internship at rolling stone while still making photocopies and transcribing interviews at men's vogue [which i loved], went in for an interview that afternoon and scored the gig sometime in the middle of november.  i was ecstatic.  i've been reading rolling stone since childhood and "almost famous" solidified my desire to work in any capacity for the publication responsible for defining rock journalism.  the gist: i fucking love rolling stone for what it stands for, what it's accomplished as a pop culture force to be reckoned with and for the unapologetic editorial content that's remained consistent since the inception of the magazine.

WITH THAT SAID: i understand and often agree with the sentiments and gripes which seem to dominate any conversation regarding jann wenner's rock n' roll baby.  "it's irrelevant.  we get it, rolling stone, you got a major hard-on for bob dylan and bruce springsteen.  write about someone else who's, uh, releasing SOMEthing this year." "they put the girls from the hills on the cover. THE HILLS. are they fucking serious?" "whatever dude i just read pitchfork."  i've piped up in the defense of rolling stone in several of these interactions:  i was just as nauseated as the last person when i saw frilly panty-clad heidi montag and lauren conrad posing a pillow fight tableau on the cover of RS, but jason gay's story was a compelling commentary on american consumerism and entertainment and how definitions of fame, fortune, talent and the core of creativity have changed.  i don't agree with half of pitchfork's reviews and rarely read it, though i will concede that they trump RS with their incredible online presence and self-imposed authority on live acts and independent music in the united states.  you can bitch and moan and complain about how rolling stone has lost touch with its initial mission and how editorial judgement may or may not have determined the death sentence for the iconic magazine, but you can't deny that it's still there.   i maintain that jenny eliscu is one of the most talented writers to ever hit the masthead over there and i think that austin scaggs is capable of relating to musicians and fans from all walks of life and that vanessa grigoriadis works like a dog to get an expose out.  you can't deny that.  rolling stone is rolling fucking stone and that's just it, man.

where's this all going?  while i was still at RS the decision had been made that the magazine would shrink from its standard tabloid pages to a smaller more eco-friendly size.  kudos, RS, right?  i was kind of bummed about the size change, but i got it and applauded them for the change.  fast forward to this week, where i picked up the new issue with kings of leon on the cover and noticed this:

i don't know if you can see this from the picture, but it's FUCKING. TINY.  the latest issue clocks in at a measly 74 PAGES.  it's smaller than current issues of people magazine, for christ's sake.  and BOB DYLAN, AGAIN, gets the first headline on the cover.  there's good stuff in there, don't get me wrong, but rolling stone, 74 PAGES?!  you're a biweekly! is there some huge issue coming up in the near future that's required more editorial attention?  i don't get it. this is the magazine that discovered annie liebowitz, revolutionized the interview and transported readers from the couches in their living rooms to the dressing rooms, hotel lobbies and stage doors that were passed through by the most notable musical acts in modern american history.  it makes me really sad to think that this magazine that i've loved so much is slowly disintegrating before my very eyes. 


  1. Yeah, Rolling Stone went and fucked themselves. There's a reason their new issue clocks in at 74 pages, and it's not all due to our failing economy.

    They're putting out a lousy rag. David Fricke, who I used to admire as a record reviewer, gave U2's new disc five freaking stars. (One listen to "Get On Your Boots" will tell you that it's NOT a five star record.) Jody Rosen, RS's newest "critic," writes horseshit reviews praising Jonas Brothers albums. RS ranks Bob Dylan as one of the top 5 singers of all time (ha!). Nickelback's "Rock Star" makes RS's end-of-year list for best songs. Brian Hiatt asks Chris Martin--this was from the left field bleachers--if he ever thought he might be gay. Creed, as I type this, is on the front page of the RS website. One week RS puts The Hills on the cover; on the next, it's The Eagles. Matt Taibbi (one of the better writers at RS, to be sure) writes three or four articles slamming Bush and his cohorts long after they've left office, including a faux-interview with Bush that relies on fart jokes to draw laughs.

    RS, if you want to plump up your magazine a bit, consider focusing on one thing at a time. Your readers (and advertisers) will take note. Do you want to cover Miley? If so, be unapologetic. Dive in. But, be prepared to wave goodbye to Angus Young and Ray Davies.

    Wanna continue spooning with Dylan and Springsteen? Go for it! If that's the case, though, you should probably stop talking about Blink-182 reunions.

    What a mess.

    Hil, I may be coming to Bahston in June. Will keep you posted. Love ya babe.

  2. mikey, i actually wanted your input on all of the above just because you were there for the bizarre transcripts and fucking awful news packets and all that. it just makes me sad. we were a talented group of kids who would've done ANYTHING to get on that masthead, you know? maybe i'm waxing poetic, but i feel like we'd be a good fit there and it's unfortunate when you realize that this icon is no longer the enigma you fell in love with in the first place.

    also: GET HERE SOON. my couch has m. elwood esq. written all over it.

  3. i think the real WTF here is why didn't Apple think to make all their handy laptop cameras flip images by default.

  4. I too watched "Almost Famous" and wanted to be that kid, so badly.