It Was October, Give Me A Break.
It was a shock to me when I read Jean Metcalfe's letter to the LMN readers last issue, since she never made any contact with me about my "Scariest Things in Louisville" October cover story. I have many things to explain about this whole situation, so let's begin.
It was October.
Halloween, haunted houses, ghosts, goblins ... you know, the scariest month of the year. Definitely the best month to run a story on the eccentric lengths that people go to in our music scene. There is a highly recognizable sub-culture of metal fans, or more broadly stated, the Underground. Metal, punk, hard-core or however you put it, you can spot a devoted heavy music fan a mile away. The tie with music is inseparable, not "tenuous" as it was stated previously. Anyone who goes to local shows knows this. Mrs. Metcalfe apparently does not have a connection to the underground scene, therefore, in her eyes, this was all just written "in poor taste."
This is really happening, as in `It's news.'
Right here in Louisville, human suspension and body modification take place. I didn't just hire a bunch of people to do this for one day here so I could write a "nasty" story about it. I merely exposed it to the masses. I shined a flashlight into a cave of the world of body modification and left the exploration up to the readers. Learn more about it if you want to, the hyper links were listed. A statement was made about how it looked like LMN was promoting it by offering links of places to find more information. Curious, I thought that was considered good journalistic practice. If a reader does not want to learn more about it, then don't go there. It's that simple. The point of this story was to expose the subject to people who might not know about it. This is the same principle behind putting a band or a musician on the cover. I never took sides and still remain objective on the subject.
A Bad Influence - Knowledge is Dangerous?
Mrs. Metcalfe brought up that my story was a "bad influence" to young readers. First off, you have to be 18 years of age to get anything like this done without parental consent and signature. Beyond that, it is all up to the individual. Secondly, I don't know many 10-year-olds that read Louisville Music News. If they do, I doubt very seriously they would read my article, then come home to Mom and Dad with a tattoo and a pentagram burned into their back.
This is not to say that there would be anything wrong with having readers of this age group. In fact, I hope we do. That would be a great sign, to know that kids are taking part in the local music scene at an age where most other kids are solely interested in cartoons and video games; it would be a head start for them. Music and reading breed knowledge, even if it is about body modification.
Watching the local news is much worse in that respect. The majority of coverage is all about bad news. Think about this: Is the reporter who reads the story on a murder that happens in downtown Louisville a "bad influence for young people" just because he/she reports what is happening in our city? I am no more an advocate of this type of behavior, than they are of homicide.
Not Everything Gets on the Cover
To say that my article "took up space that would have been more appropriately used to provide coverage" to the Quartet convention and the World of Bluegrass event is an overstatement. Those events deserve coverage, I must agree, but not necessarily on the cover. I am sorry to sound so confident, but I am sure that fewer people would pick up the newspaper if either of those things were on the cover. The picture that ran was eye-catching, and most definitely appropriate for the time of year. Coverage of the Quartet Convention and the IBMA World of Bluegrass events could and were covered on the inside of the newspaper.
As far as Mrs. Metcalfe's assertion that it was not a subject that "merits a cover story," that is in the eye of the beholder. People question why `so-and-so' is on the cover of any given month's issue. I think that if people are going to such lengths at concerts, it merits a cover story in a music newspaper. We should be proud at LMN that we were open-minded enough to cover it. If I did not think it was relevant, I would not have offered the suggestion for the cover. We cannot be in the business of media if we turn our heads from certain subjects because they are graphic or provocative. That doesn't make them any less real or important. Not everything is flowers and trees in the music business.
It was stated that Editor Paul Moffett and I made "half-hearted disclaimers" about the piece. Any disclaimer that was made by me was to detour any readers that had no interest in the subject's questionable nature. My stomach turned a few times while writing the story, so I was just giving a "heads-up" to anyone with a weak stomach, or an ultra-conservative mindset. I do not think an array of disclaimers was necessary. If you saw the cover of the newspaper, it was self-explanatory. There is a lot worse that is out there, and I tried to keep the article's grotesqueness to a minimum, hence the links for more pictures and information.
Readers Who Wrote Liked It
I have received more compliments on both the quality of the article and its content than any other piece I have done for LMN. Additional compliments for being bold enough to step forth with such controversial material have surfaced since Mrs. Metcalfe's letter was published. Here are some of the more recent comments:
"Thank you for having the courage to publish this article. It was well written, informative, and gave a different perspective on the events that go on in our society."
~Grace D. Rollins, Ewa Beach, Hawaii
"I just finished reading a message board posting about the controversy with your October issue cover story and the problems it caused within your ranks. Included in the post was the resignation letter of Jean Metcalfe. I would first like to thank everyone there for the courage it took to write such a "controversial" article. I myself live in Arizona, and am not familiar with your magazine, but I understand the problems associated with the subject matter at hand. I would also like to say that Metcalfe seems to be an extremely close-minded, uninformed individual, and has no business being in Journalism in the first place.
~ Joshua Mitchell, Arizona
"Thank you very much for publishing the October article, Scariest Things in Louisville, I think it is absolutely wonderful that word about extreme body modification is getting out to the public. Thank you for not being biased, and for being open minded, and most importantly for putting up with the letters I'm sure that you have received decrying the article and its author. Thank you once again.
~ Holli Raan, unknown
I love this newspaper. I love this city. I love each and every one of my readers. I would never try to intentionally push something on them that has no value at all. I trust in the fact that the majority of them know this. It does not bother me that my story is at the center of a major controversy, but I wish that I had been confronted on a more personal level about the effects of my article and been given an opportunity to discuss the reasons behind it with the LMN staff.
I want everyone to know that Paul Moffett is one of the best informed, open-minded, music lovers this town has ever seen. I hope this publication continues under his editorial duties, so that we can all continue to read an unfiltered expression of the Louisville Music Scene.
My apologies go out to the guys in Tornacade, this column was supposed to be on them this month, but I had to get this off my chest. Look for them next month.
If you have any comments about this issue, please send them to me at JJKSLACKER@cs.com or Paul at email@example.com. Rock On Louisville!