Everett True was ranting on Twitter about the pretentiousness of music writers who refer to themselves as “journalists” rather than “critics”, saying that it was preposterous because journalists write about proper things like wars and disasters.
It bothered me, because I thought that anyone writing about music, especially in a professional capacity, who doesn’t refer to themselves as a “music journalist” is even more pretentious. You’d find yourself hunting around to find words to describe what you do when there’s already a perfectly appropriate term that everyone else has been using for decades.
Here’s my email to him, which he uploaded on his blog:
This is too long for Twitter, but a month later your little rantlet is still bugging me.
Think about it: what is your job? Truth be told, very few people genuinely give a crap whether you like a song or not. I mean, your best friends might, but almost everyone reading anything you like only cares about whether they are going to like it or not. Your job is to describe it well enough for them to consider whether they might like it. If you say you like it and they like most of what you like, then that makes it easier – just giving a description with no measure of endorsement doesn’t really help. The question we ask our friends of anything they’ve experienced is normally “is it any good?” That’s all: describe; recommend.
To do either, you have to be using the most appropriate words that you can find – not the cleverest or longest words, but the words that best fit. Is “music critic” a good fit for what you do? Yes, so long as you’re just criticising music. It doesn’t work very well if you’re interviewing bands, unless you’re impersonating Simon Cowell as you ask the questions. If you’re a freelancer who also picks up a few spare pennies to write advertorials and press releases, it’s not an appropriate description at all.
So what to call you, then? Music writer? Probably the safest term, but unless you’re a book author then “writer” sounds insufferably pretentious. Wordsmith? Scribe? Hack? Pen-botherer? …”
(Continues at link)
Incidentally, I don’t regard what I write here as being “music journalism” because it’s more like blogging as it used to be – a stream of consciousness of my thoughts and ideas. I don’t deal with editors or record companies, I buy all my own music, and I only write about what I like (ignoring anything I don’t), with no deadlines or worries about whether what I’m writing about is “current” or fits into editorial policy. To me this is just like a type of StumbleUpon where I can ramble incoherently for a few thousand words about whether you should click on the link.