As Maria mentioned yesterday in Celebrity Social Media, Jann Wenner is getting a lot of blowback for comments made during his interview with David Marchese in the NYT to promote his latest book, The Masters, which includes interviews with Bono, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Pete Townshend. When asked why, in a book that claims to spotlight the “artists that changed history”, there were no performers of colour or female performers on the list, Jann said that the women weren’t “articulate” enough and that Black artists weren’t in his zeitgeist.
This was the dude in charge of a publication commonly referred to as the “Bible of Rock and Roll”. For decades. He was, until this weekend when he was removed, a board member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s had a huge influence on the music industry, on which artists were supported and which ones were overlooked. But let’s not pretend he’s an anomaly. The way Jann thinks, and how arrogantly he defended his way of thinking in that interview, is representative of probably a lot of people who have and continue to shape the industry.
You know what’s ironic though? Jann Wenner considers himself a journalist. A lot of what he talked about in that NYT interview was about journalism and his approach to it. And yet it was another journalist, a GREAT journalist, who asked the right questions that brought out answers that were truly insightful for the reader. This is the goal of journalism – to inform. That should be the goal of every journalist. Jann Wenner tells on himself here because he lost sight of that goal. But David Marchese upholds it.
And it’s right there in their conversation when Jann goes on repeatedly about interviewing HIS FRIENDS. Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, he has a personal relationship with almost all of his subjects. And he insists that “these were not meant to be confrontational interviews. They were always meant to be cooperative interviews”.
To which David replies, and quite rightly: “But there aren’t two different kinds of interviews.”
And Jann doubles down:
“Yes, there are. The kind of interview I wanted to do was to elicit real thinking, not to confront or challenge or get somebody defensive. But let’s go to the underlying thing: Did my too-cozy relationships alter our coverage?”
The reader is now able to answer that question for themselves – because it was David Marchese who did the job that Jann Wenner couldn’t and elicited the “real thinking”. And as a reader, my answer is yes, absolutely f-cking yes. Jann Wenner wasn’t a journalist in these situations, he was a celebrity interviewing another celebrity. He was a celebrity talking to his celebrity friends…and letting them EDIT THEIR OWN INTERVIEWS!
Which David Marchese, again a proper journalist, presses him on because first of all, that’s f-cking wild, and second, how are you out here talking about the impact of the rock and roll generation and holding up these “masters” and your relationship to them by association and how “we made striking changes socially and morally and artistically” when you’re essentially betraying journalistic principles in your approach to your subjects and the choice of which subjects to actually cover?!
There are a lot of things to take away here from this interview – and, for sure, one of them is that Jann Wenner is not the badass radical he would like to believe he is and may have contributed just as much harm to the culture as the good that he gave it – but the other takeaway is that journalists like David Marchese are essential to culture, setting a much better example of what journalism can and should be.
Yours in gossip,