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Better Live!-ing

An Advice Column for Journalists Looking to Get in on the Not-as-Easy-as-it-Looks Alt-Weekly Market

Posted 5/21/2003

We know. It's been a couple of weeks since we've written, but we've been busy. An alt-weekly doesn't put itself out, ya know. Although apparently a kinda sorta wannabe alt-weekly can.

But before we get to that, we have to give it up for the new guy. After a few minor missteps like that whole interviewing-the-drummer thing (see Better LiVE!-ing), Rashod D. Ollison's spread has become far and away the best thing about LiVE! It's got personality, see. A pulse. And frankly, now that we've watched the LiVE! struggle along these last couple of weeks, doing okay but not quite doing it somehow, in some way we've had trouble putting our finger on, that's what we think it comes down to. Personality. (Ask Rashod to tell you about a guy named Lloyd Price--he had some very compelling things to say on the subject.)

See, you guys are covering all the bases. No doubt about that. Going back and touching some of them a coupla times just to be sure--and we admire the hustle, as our old peewee football coach woulda said. You got the music, the art, the theater, the dining, the daytripping. (Though we do wonder what you're going to cover, oh, in a couple of months once you've written up every quaint antiques-and-cafés spot within driving distance? "Essex: Not as Bad as You've Heard"?) The DVD reviews? Man--we were gonna start doing that. No lie. But the thing is, we're still gonna do it. And it's going to be better. Wanna know why? Cause we're gonna have actual people putting a little toil into it, a little p-e-r-s-o-n-a-l-i-t-to-the-y into it, instead of running a buncha wire-copy crap churned out by anonymous robots working for MediaCorp. somewhere.

We give you credit for all the "Special to"s. We do. That shows initiative on your part, getting out there and getting some actual humans who might possibly live somewhere around here to write a little sumpin'-sumpin', even if usually a few inches of sawed-off, just-the-facts-ma'am kinda coverage. Again, we admire the hustle. But running a wire copy review of the new Kelly Clarkson album under the headline "Debut is a bland formula" (May 8)? Calling Clarkson "bland" and "formula" in some wire copy? That takes some balls (no offense to all the female LiVE!-ers).

Not to double back on the aforementioned well-deserved props for Mr. Ollison, but where was your new pop critic? For all of his quirks, J.D. "Man of a Thousand Bylines" Considine woulda rather died than let someone else write about the latest pop sensation in his paper, no matter how lame. Especially if it was lame. And even if you thought J.D. was kinda full of shit, at least you knew who to think was full of shit. You got acquainted with his full-of-shitness, as it were.

See, not to get too grand about it, but City Paper is written by the Baltimore people for the Baltimore people. We care about this stuff (all of it, believe it or not, dumb as some of it is sometimes) and we want our readers to care about it too. Or maybe not care. Or get pissed off and vow never to read us again. But we'd rather our readers get annoyed by our obnoxiousness--our personality, if you will--than be so bored by masticated, faceless, bloodless wire copy that they forget where they're reading. Literally lose their place. Happens to us when reading the LiVE! all the time. Almost every Thursday, we get bored a page or two after the spread and just go ahead and skip back to Table Talk.

And no, in case you're wondering, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan's column doesn't count as "personality."

So not only do we advise you get a few actual "voices" in the thing (as we say around here), we suggest you start, well, giving the old LiVE! readers a little more credit. We mean, c'mon. A "cover story" on the various ways The Matrix: Reloaded is being hyped other than reviews and ads (May 15)? Would, like, uh, articles about the ways it's being hyped count as one of these insidious inroads? A wire copy article? Lame, lame, lame. But that's nothing, really, compared to the "Preakness Madness" pullout guide (May 8). A cheeky version of the official Preakness do's and don't's, directions on the various ways to get liquored-up on black-eyed Susans, a little map for the tourists--nicely done. But then on the "Horseracing for Dummies" page, you provide definitions for obscure bits of track argot like blinkers, longshot, nose, and stretch. With a semi-straight face no less. And then there's the helpful advice that "betting 'to win' means that you think a specific horse will come in first." We don't quite know how to tell you this, especially if it's somehow news to you, but if people don't know that stuff, they're probably not reading a newspaper, know what we're sayin'?

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