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Global Grind, you teetered precariously on the edge of the sexual exploitation of a minor in a thinly veiled attempt to drive page views. As a journalism professional, hip hop head, and father, none of this sits well with me.

Global Grind: The World (Not) According To Hip Hop

By writing this, I am preempting a planned, well researched and well thought out diatribe I have been planning in my mind for quite some time.

By writing this, I am directly attacking a formidable force in journalism, new media, and hip hop, all areas where I am working feverishly to implant Birthplace Magazine. It may not be in my best interest to step into such an arena, with little more than my own site and my pride to protect me.

However, due to my already smoldering discontent, fueled by a disturbing recent development, I do not wish to hold my e-tongue for a later date.

Global Grind (www.GlobalGrind.com), in my humble opinion, you have done yourselves a disservice for some time, and yesterday, you stooped particularly low. While my long-standing personal feelings toward the bastardization of your self-proclaimed alignment with, and authority on, “hip hop” and your unethical approach to online journalism were already deep rooted, yesterday (Sept. 22, 2010) your site teetered precariously on the edge of the sexual exploitation of an underage girl in a thinly veiled attempt to drive page views. As a journalism professional, hip hop head, and father, none of this sits well with me.

Global Grind "The Daily Grind" Email (9/22/2010)

Global Grind's "The Daily Grind" Email (9/22/2010)

Jasmine Villegas is 16 years old, yet you paraded her provocative photograph on your homepage, as well as the primary item in your daily newsletter, going so far as to proclaim this young lady “quite the catch”. The writer of the accompanying piece suggested that the Villegas’ apparent boyfriend, pop superstar Justin Bieber, also 16, take her to a hotel room. This, after the young lady and Bieber were photographed “making out” in the back of a car in California.

When I am not running BirthplaceMag.com, I am a professional new media specialist working in the field of journalism. I am well aware of the tactics that Global Grind have discovered and actively engaged in recently, as it struggles to find a voice in the digital world. You know, the tactics that have veered the company away from its initial mission of delivering “The World According To Hip Hop” to that of its current catchphrase, “The New American Mainstream,” in a scattered attempt to reposition itself after failing to do what WorldStarHipHop.com and MediaTakeOut.com have been able to do.

Claiming initial allegiance with a culture where “selling out” is so vehemently shunned, it always struck me as ironically shocking what Global Grind has become. GlobalGrind.com, announced in September of 2007, promised at the time to use a “proprietary relevance engine” to “provide the web’s most rich and dynamic integration of all content formats of interest to the hip-hop community”.

In simpler terms? Digg.com for hip hop.

And so “the world according to hip hop,” (and by hip hop we mean co-founder Russell Simmons, pronounced Editor-In-Chief in 2009, and veteran journalists Kim Osorio, briefly, and Datwon Thomas, now with Vibe), was aggregated and delivered to its ever-growing audience in an ethical, helpful and honest method, establishing GlobalGrind.com as a pioneering force in new media journalism, giving hip hop a strong foundation of technological credibility.

Well… Not quite.

After copying the methodology already in place with Digg, internet aggregator-in-chief at the time, GlobalGrind.com seems to have gotten a bit greedy. A fantastically thorough piece by Patrick O’Keefe called GlobalGrind.com out for “shifting their strategy” in early 2010, engaging in an unethical practice called “scraping content”.

You can read O’Keefe’s detailed post (and I suggest you do) to fully grasp the scope of the infraction perpetrated by GlobalGrind.com, as well as somewhat of a response by Michael Skolnik, co-president of GlobalGrind.com. At least it seems that once called out, some fixes were implemented.

But let’s not lose sight of the not-so-subtle changes that Simmons’ “world according to hip hop” hub has gone through, from the top-level down, regarding the overall content and mission of Global Grind. From the addition of “celebrity” blogs (often inane ramblings of B- and C-list personalities), to the heavy shift away from aggregating “hip hop” to the full-court press of covering TMZ-style pop culture stories, GlobalGrind.com has obviously jumped full force into the game of simply securing page views, with no particular affinity whatsoever toward the “hip hop” world, despite the continuing existence of that tagline in their branding and literature.

Yesterday’s egregious affront further amplifies the site’s clear intent to simply piggyback, and often, sloppily, off of the hard work of other journalistic outlets, particularly those modeled after the “gotcha” style of journalism invented by the National Enquirer and perfected 2.0 style by TMZ.

And this offends me, Global Grind. As a longstanding follower of a hip hop lifestyle, a participant of hip hop music and culture, and now, as a serious-minded purveyor of hip hop news, particularly with my current work documenting the struggles and successes of New York area artists.

It is clear that you have decided it is more profitable to become “The New American Mainstream” than to remain true to the mission of delivering “The World According to Hip Hop”. That’s cool. But then do so completely. Remove that old tagline from your emails, and the site’s “About Us” section. Those “Daily Grinds”? Of the last twelve emails , only two featured items of any relevance to “hip hop”. The rest? Justin Bieber, Glee!, Lady Gaga, Aly Michalka (the 20 year old Disney starlet, led by the nearly-as-suspect headline “Aly Michalka is the Sexiest Disney Diva Yet.” Real classy.), Gossip Girl, Fashion Week, Willow Smith and Snooki.

This is the world according to hip hop?

Global Grind's "Hip Hop Culture" Section Front Page

Global Grind's "Hip Hop Culture" Section Front Page

Ah, but surely the actual “hip hop culture” sub-section of the site would be chock full of hip hop, right? Like for instance, featured stories from the same day: a new Land Rover (with plenty of photos, aka, page views), Fashion Week in Sweden (with plenty of photos, aka page views), a new fashion brand (with plently of photos, aka page views), a new BMW (with plenty of photos, aka, page views) and a real big, expensive house in Spain (with… you guessed it, plenty of photos).

Seriously?

Look, I work in news and I run what is quickly becoming a very successful blog/e-publication. I know all about SEO techniques, driving traffic based on trends, writing web-friendly (and whenever possible, super salacious) headlines and other practices not necessarily meant to inform readers, but to attract readers, and provide information culled from other sources. Even with reputable news organizations, it has become fairly commonplace. It works, but I’ll leave the discussion of the benefits vs. drawbacks of this new school type of journalism for another time.

However, to practice these techniques, with a slant that borders on the sexual exploitation of a minor, almost proudly, with a subhead exclaiming that said 16 year old girl, who is prominently displayed with as provocatively suggestive a photograph as could be found, is “quite the catch”, enters an area I don’t particularly care to share with Mr. Simmons, who I otherwise admire professionally. To have author Blogxilla suggest, “Justin Bieber you’re rich take her to your hotel room playboy,” and then instructing to us to “enjoy these amazing pictures of Justin Bieber’s Girlfriend Jasmine Villegas” just seems to cross a bit of a line.

If this is what is important “according to hip hop,” then one of us has a very flawed definition of what hip hop is.

I can almost close my eyes and imagine that if I was hip hop watching these developments, I might conjure up a noticeable, Rakim-like sneer curling the edge of my mouth. I might gruffly implore Russell Simmons, one of my oldest friends and allies, and his GlobalGrind.com, with a slightly cocked head and pinpoint glare, that if this is going to be the way you are going to pursue the delivery of the “New American Mainstream,” then more power to you, but when doing so, make sure you take my name out your mouth.

About Manny Faces

Manny Faces is renowned among the industry and to the public as a producer, remixer, DJ, radio personality and an award-winning, new media journalism professional. Through MP3, vinyl and CD releases, his remixed versions of popular songs have appeared on radio, mixtapes and in clubs throughout the world while his latest endeavors, Birthplace Magazine and weekly online radio program, The NY Hip Hop Report, are being recognized as the premier information sources for New York area hip hop.

8 comments

  1. OMG breaking and being lovers again shucking………………………………….

  2. I got into with Global Grind & their “news & gossip” editior BlogXilla over their less than ethical journalistic practices in late Jult 2009. I guess I was the first (http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2009/07/darts-rant-of-day-global-grind-news.html). Since then, many other reputable & more well known sites have also taken them to task for their actions & practices.

    Unfortunately, I feel GlobalGrind is too far gone for anyone to reform it or right the ship.

    One.

    • DA, thanks for your comment, I appreciate you and your thoughts over at Poisonous Paragraphs, which I definitely perused from time to time..

      I completely agree with your thoughts of course, and it only helps illustrate that GlobalGrind must be aware by now of those calling them out on these various issues, yet they have continued to blindly do what they do.

      Meaning they are OK with it.

      Thus, your last sentence is probably correct, and at best, GG will eventually go the way of all of these idiotic blogs and useless aggregation sites when (hopefully) the online information landscape evolves a step above the irresponsible free-for-all it is now.

  3. Hey Manny,

    Thanks for the mentions and praise. I really appreciate it and I appreciated your support on that issue.

    This is an interesting, well-written post and I enjoyed reading it. I agree with what you say, regarding the content of the site. It is something I feel, as well. As I read your post, wrote this comment, and thought about it carefully, I realized there were three different points to make regarding their content. And all of them point to the type of publication they are.

    First, the lack of editorial responsibility, which you pointed out and I agree with. The coverage of Ms. Villegas, that you highlighted, is an example of that. Respected publications don’t do that sort of thing. Villegas and Bieber can do what they want, but to have an adult male imply that they should engage in intimate relations (how’s that for a description?) makes me a littl uncomfortable. As an aside, author that you mention is the same person who attacked me on Twitter, over my article, said that it included lies and that those that agreed with me were haters.

    Second, as you point out, the site isn’t so much about hip-hop as it is about celebrity news in general. If I look at the 21 stories on the homepage (minus the celebrity bloggers), I count 9 that are at least in some notable way related to hip-hop or hip-hop artists. And that includes stories like Rihanna wearing a sexy dress, who Kanye is dating, etc. So, it’s not a hip-hop focused site. It is a general celebrity site with a bit of a hip-hop slant.

    Third, again as you point out, is their coverage of what some would call gossip-type stories. When I wrote that initial article about the scraping, I contemplated adding the gossip angle to it and breaking down the top stories on the site. But, I edited that part out because it wasn’t the main point of my article and I didn’t want to sidetrack people.

    TMZ, gossip site as they are, they actually do some reporting, break stories, cite court documents, have editorial consistency, etc. They often mention their sources, talk to official representatives and do things that journalists do. I can’t really take much issue with them like I can, say, MediaTakeOut.

    What kills me about Global Grind is that Mr. Simmons has (rightfully, in my book) railed on gossip sites like MTO, that do not seem to take their platform with a sense of responsibility. I agree with him. It bothers me. And, like you, despite all of the stuff people said about him when I covered the story, I’ve always respected Mr. Simmons.

    But, does he not see that Global Grind is playing into the hands of this type of media – encouraging it, stimulating it and profiting from it? I mentioned it to him on Twitter, respectfully, but didn’t receive a reply (no surprise, I’m sure he gets too many to deal with). If Global Grind wanted to take a stand on this and generally stick to stories with substance, they could. But, they don’t. And so, it confuses me, especially his involvement with it because he has a chance to improve the quality of what is out there.

    I mean, the celebrity blogs don’t bother me (I’d welcome “celebrities” to blog for me under the right circumstances), but as I look at their 6 feature stories right now, plus the top 4 under “Latest on Global Grind,” here’s what I see:

    “**BREAKING NEWS** Lyfe Jennings Is Going To Jail”
    “10 Cute Celebrities With Their Legs Closed [PHOTOS]” (Heh)
    “Oh No! Katy Perry Gets DROPPED!”
    “Cory Booker Gets A New $100 Million Friend”
    “EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW of Running Russell Simmons”
    “Paris and Snoop are BFFs??”
    “Rihanna Puts on a Sexy Dress for Matt Kemp (PHOTOS)”
    “Kanye West and Selita Ebanks Out Again (PHOTOS)”
    “UGG Australia x Jimmy Choo Limited Edition Collection (PHOTOS)”
    “Demi Lovato Lost Respect For A “Jealous Jonas” (PHOTOS)”

    Put those three factors together and you have Global Grind.

    Thanks,

    Patrick

  4. On point article except for the constant reminders of how much of a journalist and web expert you are. No disrespect but it makes you sound bitter when you slam Global Grind while pushing yourself and takes away from the point of your piece. One correction, Datwon is not at Global Grind he is at Vibe.

    • @ Slamantha – I appreciate your comment, and correction re: Datwon. I certainly didn’t mean to come off as bitter, rather the opposite… I was trying to demonstrate that my knowledge on the subject shows that I’m not just being blindly speculative. But again, I appreciate how it may come across, I perhaps subconsciously infused a bit more pride into the piece than I should have.

      • See… This is why I love this publication. No tongue holding, no bullshit. Simply raw realism. Thanks for bringing it out in true format. That is the one truly wonderful thing about this country. U can say what the hell you want to. The truth needs to be exposed. That, to me, is the true reason for mass media in the first place. From my perspective you don’t sound bitter. It denotes passion. You’ve work hard to be who you are and to know as much as you do. You are a hell of a writer. There is nothing wrong with YOU honoring that. You didn’t come off as snobbish but as an expert in your craft. We are often taught to big up other people’s credentials but to keep our own humble. Fuck that! This is why I post your stuff up on Twitter and Facebook. I am a true fan of your work bro. Slamantha and I may know some of your background but new readers may not. As an emcee, I know all about braggadocio and people overdosing on what they know. I think you gave a little insight into your history and that helped to fortify your argument. It wasn’t like you laid out your resume with links and ego stroking commentary.

        Bring it man. keep that eloquently gritty truth flowing. You are an asset in more ways than you know Mr. Faces.

        Gripes or Love?
        Bring it to me!
        -Tah Phrum Duh Bush

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