Stories Still Matter: A Writer Writing About Why He Writes [EDITORIAL]

Manny Faces - Birthplace Magazine

It’s true.

Stories still matter.

Even reputable media organizations, once bastions of journalistic integrity, have found themselves distancing themselves from this philosophy as they spend more time and effort chasing and posting about trending topics, breaking stories into multi-part “galleries” to induce extra clicks and luring readers with salacious and occasionally misleading headlines.

Most of these adopted “tricks of the trade” were actually created by claw-scratching bloggers in an attempt to master the new media art of giving the people what they think they want. While many of these amateur journalist voices are less than noteworthy, the phenomenon has helped change the methodology of news delivery, nearly toppling an entire industry at the same time.

Bloggers. The accidental locusts of Newsmageddon.

Despite the doom and gloom, some outlets continue to offer long-form, narrative journalism of old, but in an effort to attract every stray eyeball, many newspaper, magazine and online-only publication sites have become virtual carnival barkers, relying on slight-of-hand tactics to increase page rank.

The 5 Ws are being trumped by an S, an E and an O.

While old media continue to struggle in a new media landscape, battling the economic confusion that permeates the industry, they are often found joining in the tactics employed by the rise of layman journalism, further distorting and destabilizing the storytelling universe.

Hip hop storytelling has fared even worse. Hip hop has always been a tough subject for mainstream press to embrace, and even when they have, it is rarely without bias. Hip hop news with any sort of journalistic quality now is even harder to find among the throngs of sites purporting to “cover” the field. In actuality, most sites are doing little more than functioning as e-bulletin boards, where content creators serve as content regurgitators, simply sticking a pushpin through a blurb of the moment, jamming the entry onto the top of countless other small announcements, waiting for the opportunity to do the same as soon as a new blurb is available.

Site owners are as happy to yell FIRST! as site commentors are, but as is the case in real journalism, first doesn’t always mean right, and aside from the occasionally interesting long-form pieces in magazines like XXL or good online reporting from sites like HipHopDX, the art of storytelling in our communities borders on woeful.

Even on nights where reporting on New York hip hop isn’t at the forefront of my mind, it is impossible for me to miss the voices of the unheard, as they surround us every day, especially in a city with the size and diversity of New York.

One Saturday night, as I was traveling from Long Island to Manhattan to attend a lounge event hosted by friend and colleague DJ Domewrecka, life led me on a meandering path, where people and stories practically dropped into my lap. I was mildly aware of it as it was happening, but only after the night was over, and I was immersed in one of my frequent, meditative, Birthplace Magazine-related soul-searching sessions (where I vacillate between reveling in the genius of my potentially game-changing journalism vision, and basking in humility, doubting my ability to pull it off), did I feel the full effects of this inspiring succession of encounters.