What is Good Writing?

WritingWhat is good writing? To an aspiring music journalist, the parameters that define “good” are ‘published’ and ‘gets paid’.  Having said that, there is a diminishing amount of music journalists in the published press that create pieces with genuine flair, or pervade a sense of authority and knowledge in line with the idea of “…the fast-turning pop-cultural wheel, ink coming off on your fingers, the old idea of the righteous and precious existing in the midst of cheapness and absurdity …” (Keenan, J. 2009)

The names of the greats spring to mind when creating my own journalistic A-team: Lester Bangs, Hunter S. Thompson, Nick Kent, and Simon Reynolds. The intelligent and angsty era that was 1980’s NME acts as a highlight in music press for me. The idea of ‘talking up’ to your audience is one I cherish, with too many modern publications, to name names; Kerrang!, dumbing down their content in the hope of keeping their readership by being unchallenging and simple, “By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.” (Wilde, O. n.d.)

The mark of a great journalist comes from the ability to evaluate and inform whilst inter-weaving their own flair and satire. The use of clichés is a journalistic ‘no-no’, only acceptable if the word does not exist in English. However, this aspiration to be original grows ever more pointless with the increasing number of blogs by both professional music journalists, and the new breed of self-appointed experts. WordPress currently has “65669481 WordPress sites” (WordPress.com 2011), with the vast majority of these being a single person uploading their thoughts to an “invisible audience” (Bristol Editor, 2012).

Andrew Dubber is another favourite of mine, and puts it with an almost painful honesty: “Music journalists and radio programmers have the opportunity to lead us toward these rich seams of wonderful music lying just beyond their morning jiffy-bag mail pile and inbox of press releases. Their refusal or reluctance to do so suggests that it’s not popular music that is the problem. Never before has there been a greater opportunity for music journalists to be tastemakers and discoverers of exciting talent. Never before has that opportunity been so resolutely rejected.” (Dubber, A. 2011)

As FDR relevantly explains “great power involves great responsibility”. I feel this absolutely applies to music journalism, as great journalists put the time and effort into studying and reporting on music, and understand the duty to readers and not to assume they are dumb, because you don’t get respect for thinking people can’t read what you’re writing.


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