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Better Live!-ing

An Advice Column for Journalists Looking to Get in on the Rough-and-Tumble Alt-Weekly Market

Posted 6/4/2003

Sigh. After a few weeks of faithfully reading Live!, we suppose it's possible that you guys better serve the day-tripping, antiquing, radio-controlled airplane, family-fun-day demo than we do. We'll give you that. After all, you are The Sun. No one gets to drop the F-bomb in your august pages, and no one advertises hand jobs (nonsexual) in your classified ads (or at least not as blatantly--and nonsexually--as we do here at City Paper). But it's your ongoing lame attempts to get "with it" that make us take up pen in hand to write this week.

Allow us to say up-front that you guys have definitely made strides in some areas, especially in making LiVE! better reflect the community it ostensibly serves: majority African-American Baltimore. You bucked the perennial trend toward white guys with glasses (facial hair optional) and hired a young black man to be your new pop critic--kudos. When we leaf through the pages of LiVE!, we see a lot more faces of color than we used to--it's a small thing, but it makes a difference. But do you guys actually read your own paper?

Let's take Survey Says. In the May 22 edition of LiVE!, you ask Baltimoreans (or at least Sun readers) what concerts they plan to attend this summer from among the following options: Chris Isaak, the Doobie Brothers (!), the revivified Lollapalooza, Metallica's travelling Lars-arama, Ozzfest, Pearl Jam, and the Vans Warped Tour. Sigh.

OK, so there's this guy named Jay-Z--he's a rapper--and there's this other guy named 50 Cent, and he's also a rapper. In fact, they're two of the biggest MCs, as we call them, in the world right now, and they're going on tour together this summer. Cultural-currency-wise, it's probably the hottest tour going. It's such a big deal that Entertainment Weekly did a cover story on it recently. That's right, Entertainment Effin' Weekly. That's the only sunbaked Port-o-San experience we're willing to pony up for this season. Surely we're not the only Baltimoreans, white and black, to miss its presence on your list (like maybe the poll-winning 25 voters--more than half of the respondents--who clicked on none of the above to answer your query, as announced in the May 29 edition). I mean, they're no Doobie Brothers, but Jay and 50 should put on a pretty good show.

Speaking of your new pop critic, one of us ran into Rashod D. Ollison somewhere around town recently, and, well, he didn't seem that pleased to meet us. And we understand that, especially after that whole interviewing-the-drummer thing (Better LiVE!-ing, April 30). But we felt a little bad, 'cause, really, so far he's doing a fine job and making the paper better. Really. He's the primary reason we actively read LiVE! (other than making fun of it), and he's starting to blow a little fresh air into the other editions of the paper as well.

So let it be noted that City Paper is officially on record as unreservedly pro-Rashod D. Ollison. If we pay him undue (possibly unwarranted, and certainly undesired) attention, it's mainly because when it comes to LiVE!, he's pretty much the whole shootin' match. Him and Table Talk. We're definitely pro-Sloane Brown, too.

'Cause, like, what else? It's been weeks now, and we're still waiting for some top dog's involuntary editorial blush response to kick in and someone to do something about the general wire-driven, telegraphic sorriness of the enterprise. After all, occasionally parts of our very own City Paper wind up being a little on the crappy side, but we're an alternative weekly, for cryin' out loud. We're proud of that, but we make do with somewhat limited resources. The Sun is owned by the gigantor Tribune Co. The paper wins the Pulitzer Prize once in a while. And this is the best you guys can do?

True, art critic Glenn McNatt is pitching in, but jeez, you're not giving him much room to work with. In fact, a lot of the stuff you've been doing (like maybe that little ditty on gal-rock explosion EstroFest in the May 29 edition, hyped on the cover no less) would be better if you let someone run with it a little, instead of squeezing down until it plays like wire copy you're denaturing to ship off to some other hapless weekly insert somewhere.

(Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, she gets too much room, if you ask us. We just had to slip that in somewhere.)

And, OK, the rundown of area vinyl stores was a respectable idea for a publication largely floundering in the contemporary savoir faire department. That we give you credit for. In fact, it was such a good idea that we already did it four years ago. Nice update, though. See, we can too say nice things.

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