Like a Complete Unknown: What it Means to Write for Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone Intern

Back in March of last year, my friend and fellow rock journalist, Nicole, phoned me up to read me an ad she’d just seen somewhere on line. “You’ll never believe this,” she says to me – which is what she always says when she’s about to hip me to something that’s totally ridiculous. “Rolling Stone is looking for writers just out of college to intern at the magazine for some stupid Reality TV Show!

The irony is, I didn’t have any problem believing it at all.

At one point in my career, when I was kicking the ass of the rock journalism world and editors were calling me at a fairly steady clip, I spent about three years writing CD reviews for Rolling Stone online. It stung a little bit that I was never able to penetrate the print publication, but once a couple of my friends started working at RS, I got over it.

One woman, an intern who eventually cracked enough breaking news stories to secure a staff writer position, left after three years of banging her head against a glass ceiling. The other, hired as an associate editor, went out of his way to champion bands that actually wrote their own songs and knew how to play their instruments. He was fired after a couple of years when he refused to stop writing about good bands and just cover hip-hop “artists” and faceless, flavor-of-the-week wankers.

I don’t know why I was surprised, considering the fact that I was once asked to remove the word “flanged” from a CD review because the editor did not know what the word meant. Another review of mine – a 50 word-count blurb on the latest Bettie Serveert CD – never ran because another editor felt I did not make enough references in my review to the band’s seven previous releases. In a fifty word review. Right.

And let’s not forget that Rolling Stone once fired the greatest living rock critic Jim DeRogatis, because he wrote a negative review of a Hootie and The Blowfish album. I wish I were making that up.
The Future of Music Journalism?

Here’s a brief encapsulation of what we’re likely in for on I’m From Rolling Stone, (Sundays at 10 PM on MTV) from Heather Havrilesky’s I Like To Watch column on Salon.

“Of course, how interesting would this show be if there were competent professionals involved? The first two episodes of I’m From Rolling Stone suggest that, just as spitty outbursts and drunken street fights are the main event on The Real World, any amusement we can find here is going to come from witnessing the flailings of young people about to bungle their first big job in a wide variety of ways.

Russell, the only experienced reporter, is a smooth, intelligent interviewer and a solid writer, but he has a criminal history and it’s pretty obvious that they chose him because he appears to have a habit of slacking or quitting when the going gets tough. Krystal, a poet, not only seems likely to produce overwritten prose, but also romanticizes Rolling Stone to an extent that’s bound to make reality disappointing. Tika seems foolishly overconfident, Krishtine comes off as lazy and disrespectful, Peter seems to be a drunk, and Colin appears to have a pea-size brain and the poise of a nervous squirrel. In short, I’m From Rolling Stone is an exercise in sadism that’s so mean-spirited and condescending, it could only have been dreamed up by someone who works in the wild and wonderful world of magazines.”

Oh, awesome. Like we need another reason for people to not take journalists seriously. Honestly, this line of work is challenging enough with pathological douchebags like Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair fabricating news stories, getting fired from their respective publications and then getting book deals to reward them for their lack of character!

We don’t need Rolling Stone – a magazine I once worshipped and lionized to the point where writing for them was for many years my ultimate career goal – imbuing the TV-viewing public with the indelible impression that we’re all a bunch of binge-drinking, air headed, unprofessional clowns. Jesus, way to shoot yourselves in the foot, guys.