[JPL] Response to posting of blog about jazz magazines

Lee Mergner lmergner at jazztimes.com
Tue Oct 28 14:16:23 EDT 2008

I'm not sure how to respond to such a vitriolic and inaccurate blog,
replete with typos, posted on this listserve.  I wasn't sure that I
should even respond at all to a random bashing like this.  But how the
members of this listserve perceive us matters greatly to me.  I will say
it's the very first time I've been called a corporate suit.  I'm sort of
excited by that since, as most of you know, I'm neither a suit wearer
nor a corporate guy.  I'm hoping this appellation means a corresponding
increase in my salary.  


Objectively, I believe he's overreacted to our cover choices, including
most recently Return to Forever, Esperanza Spalding, Freddie Hubbard and
David Sanborn.  I'm not sure why he dropped the cover artist Rahsaan
Roland Kirk; I suppose it didn't fit his argument.  Apparently, picking
what we deem as the most commercial and accessible story for the cover
makes me a corporate suit and the magazine a tool of publicity flacks.
Besides the fact that these cover subjects are pretty damn worthy as
artists, if you look at the depth and breadth of coverage in those
issues, you see that we are serving the music and our readership quite
well.  Clearly, he doesn't dig Sanborn and his heartfelt tribute to Hank
Crawford and David Fathead Newman, but in that same issue were features
or stories on Ari Hoenig, Bill Stewart, Corey Wilkes, Billy Cobham,
Alvin Queen, Tim Warfield, John McLaughlin & Chick Corea.  The issue had
a drum theme, as you might guess from that list, but in any case, that
list is a nice representative sampling of the music - past, present and
future.  Also, if he had spoken directly with the jazz publicity folks,
he'd find that their suggestions and pitches are rejected at an
uncomfortably high rate, for various reasons including space and
relevance.  For the record, we solicited the cover stories on each of
those artists.  And in fact the piece on Spalding was about the
machinery of hype.  Finally, if we did these covers for advertising, as
is commonly charged, then we really messed up because you won't see many
ads for releases from those artists.  


For the record, I believe firmly that JazzTimes and Downbeat are much
better magazines than most people in the jazz community realize.  Are
there comparably strong publications in other roots music niches, such
as blues, bluegrass, reggae, Latin and world music?  I don't think so.
And that nostalgia for the magazines of the past is something I've
experienced myself, but then I went through the archives of Metronome
and old issues of Downbeat, Musician and other publications and realized
that the level of professionalism in contemporary magazines like
JazzTimes and Downbeat is so much higher today in every aspect.  I miss
my old baseball glove, but my catcher's mitt back then was more like a
stiff throw pillow, hardly comparable to the flexible and durable gloves
of today.  


And calling our writers mediocre seems nearly insane.  I would not use
that word to describe Gary Giddins, Nat Hentoff, Nate Chinen, Don
Heckman, David R. Adler, Geoffrey Himes, Larry Appelbaum, George Varga,
Marc Hopkins, Ashley Kahn, Mike Joyce, Josef Woodard, Laurel Gross,
Steve Greenlee, Rebeca Mauleon and many other regular contributors.  If
anything, we have benefited from the unfortunate purging of daily and
weekly newspapers' newsrooms.  Our next issue features a great column by
K. Leander Williams, a longtime weekly vet.  Hardly mediocre stuff.  


Regarding his valuation of the editors, I'm cool with being called
"mediocre," or to paraphrase Stanley Crouch, "a minor man," but our
managing editor Evan Haga and associate editor Jeff Tamarkin are
first-class editors and I feel lucky to be able to work with them.
Mediocre they're not.   I can't speak for Jason at Downbeat, but I'd
have to think he feels the same way about his editors. It looked to me
like the blogger could have used a bit of editing, mediocre or


With the major newspapers cutting back on arts and jazz coverage, we all
should appreciate any print media outlets paying close attention to this
music, much less the ones who are doing it very well.


Honestly, I can take criticism pretty well, but what stung the most is
the blogger's thesis that we're bad for jazz and that we don't care
about the music.  As my teenaged daughter would say, "whatever."  Or, as
stated in a quote often attributed to LBJ, "Any jackass can burn down a
barn, but it takes a hellluva carpenter to build one."


Thanks for listening.


Lee Mergner 
8737 Colesville Road, Ninth Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910
www.jazztimes.com <http://www.jazztimes.com/> 
(301) 588-4114, ext. 513
Fax: (301) 588-5531

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