So here we are, at the end of yet another decade. We figure that all of the other entertainment sources out there are going to have all of the “Best Of’s” for the past decade, but really, won’t they all have about the same answers anyway? Instead, Randomville is choosing to focus on what happened and how it happened this past decade. So this month we’ll be sporadically releasing stories reflecting on the past decade in music, film, comics, games and many other subjects in the entertainment industry.
Our In Other Words section hosts the fun, odd and unique items that don’t normally fit into our other categories, so we weren’t really sure who to have comment in this area. Lauren Bishop has been the pop culture reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer since November 2003. When she’s not writing feature stories for the paper, she’s blogging about her adventures as a member of the Cincinnati Rollergirls, the city’s amateur, all-female roller derby team. She also tweets regularly about roller derby, journalism, pop culture and life in Cincinnati.
Randomville: You work for a newspaper. That seems like a scary occupation these days.
Lauren Bishop: It is, but it’s not so scary that I’m running away from it screaming. It’s a time of change and reinvention, and it’s interesting and even exciting at times to be a part of that. I don’t think anyone knows how it’ll all shake out, but there will always be a need for people who know how to gather and report news, even if newspapers as we know them cease to exist. I’m an eternal optimist, though, so feel free to laugh at my naïveté if I’m proven wrong in ten years.
Rv: Do you feel like a newspaper reporter is safer than a radio DJ as far as employment in the future?
LB: Maybe, but only slightly safer. I’m no expert on radio, but I think both newspapers and radio stations are facing the same sorts of challenges. Both are suffering from steep declines in advertising revenue and stiff competition from online and mobile sources. Because of cutbacks in both industries, there are fewer jobs than there once were, so you have to be willing and able to do more if you have any hope of getting or keeping a job. If you’re a newspaper reporter, you’re much more valuable to the newspaper if you not only can write about just about any topic, but also if you know how to take photos, shoot and edit video, blog and use social networking. I would imagine it’s much the same for radio. They’re trying to engage listeners however they can, just as newspapers are trying to engage readers however they can.
Rv: Name some strange moments with people you’ve covered in stories.
LB: Oh boy, where do I begin? I think my strangest moments occurred when I was a reporter for the Ithaca Journal in Upstate New York, from 1998 to 2003. Ithaca’s an extremely liberal little college town in a comparatively conservative, rural county, so there were always these interesting clashes between the two populations. One of my favorite stories was about an annual woodchuck hunt in a town just outside of Ithaca called Newfield. The first year, the county legislature denounced the hunt and animal rights activists from Cornell University protested by standing in front of the hunters’ guns. The second year, the year that I covered the hunt, none of that happened, and the hunters wore T-shirts parodying what had happened the year before. In the country, woodchucks cause lots of problems for farmers, and that’s the way they chose to get rid of them – complete with cash prizes for whoever killed the biggest and the most. I hung out at a bar in Newfield for several hours, watching hunters pull up with pickup trucks full of dead woodchucks to be counted and weighed and asking them a series of what they must have thought were really stupid questions. For a child of the suburbs and a vegetarian, it was both a fascinating and horrifying experience. I ended up writing a pretty entertaining, and I hope educational, story as a result.
Rv: Do you ever look back at early material you’ve written and wondered what you were thinking back then?
LB: Oh yeah. I actually have a really hard time reading my articles after they’ve been published because I’m afraid I’ll find a mistake or wish I would have worded something a different way, asked someone a different question or included a different quote. I’m a perfectionist and I’m rarely 100 percent satisfied with anything I write. The woodchuck hunt story has held up pretty well after nine years, though.
Rv: How did 9/11 change your workplace?
LB: Hmmm…well, obviously we were all a lot busier that day and over the next few weeks, but I don’t think it’s changed the industry as much as other things I’ve already mentioned. But I think events like that underscore how important professional reporting is. Even though people now post updates on Twitter and Facebook about catastrophic events as they’re happening, people still look to established media outlets the next day for the “real” story.
Rv: A decade ago, could you ever have imagined sharing intimate parts of your life via Twitter?
LB: No. Years ago, I remember thinking a former co-worker was crazy when she first told me about her LiveJournal diary. And it took me a while to come around to Twitter, but I’ve gotten to know lots of fascinating people in Cincinnati that way on both personal and professional levels. And as a reporter, I feel like the more I share about myself (to a point), the more likely sources are to share information with me, give me story ideas, etc. Social networking has really helped to demystify the once faceless mass media, and people want their local media to be worth reading and watching, so they’re willing to help them out if they can.
Rv: On that note, can’t anyone (like a bunch of saps at Randomville) call themselves “media” these days?
LB: Sure. You just don’t have the name recognition, readership or the reader trust that, say, The New York Times does.
Rv: [Pfft…The New York Times. Let’s see them profile Mutton Busting!] The BlackBerry is also a decade old now. When did you discover it and how has it changed your occupation?
LB: Wow, is it really? I actually just got one about a month ago, thanks to a great deal from my carrier (Cincinnati Bell). It actually hasn’t changed my occupation that much because it’s a personal phone, not a work phone. There’s no way that I’m ever linking it up to my work e-mail, unless work starts paying for it. It would be buzzing constantly.
LB: Probably someday. It’s appealing because I’m a big Apple fan – I couldn’t live without my MacBook – but it would be more appealing if I didn’t have to switch carriers and if AT&T’s network were more reliable.
Rv: Being an Apple fan, it’s kind of hard not to discuss the impact that Steve Jobs and Apple had this decade.
LB: Apple’s influence really can’t be overstated. It’s changed the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we expect things to be designed, the way we listen to music and even the music we end up buying. The brand has just become synonymous with cool.
Rv: What happened with satellite radio? It seemed like it was going to take over the world three years ago.
LB: It’s never been a must-have kind of thing and it never will be, now that websites like Pandora and Internet radio apps for smart phones basically let you listen to your favorite radio station anywhere, anytime, for free.
Rv: What were the top three music moments this past decade?
LB: The advent of iTunes and the iPod, TV becoming a breeding ground for pop stars (chiefly via “American Idol” and countless Disney Channel shows) and the ability to listen to just about anything on the Internet.
Rv: So people seem to think that Rock and Roll is dead. Do you feel like this is true?
LB: No. Music is just incredibly fractured right now. There’s just so much out there and most people are lazy, so they listen to whatever they might hear on the radio in the car or, increasingly, on their favorite TV shows. Most of that seems to be pop right now, but I do hear rock sometimes. There are people who actively seek out new music, but that takes more time and effort than most people are willing to put in.
Rv: How about Cincinnati? Did any bands emerge (or disband) this decade that need to be known?
LB: Absolutely. The two best bands to emerge this decade, in my opinion, are The National and The Heartless Bastards, although neither band calls Cincinnati home anymore. Of the bands that are still here, I’d definitely recommend checking out Bad Veins, Wussy and Pomegranates, to name just a few.
Rv: Even though they were online only, Cincinnati lost one of the best radio stations in the world this year in WOXY. What impact will that have on Cincinnati?
LB: WOXY’s relocation to Austin was sad news for local music fans who had been listening to it ever since it was on the FM dial, and for the local bands that were always in heavy rotation. The DJs have said they’ll continue to promote Cincinnati music, and I know they will, but what happens when they leave the station? It’s a shame, because WOXY was one of those things that added to Cincinnati’s cool factor, even though I’d be willing to bet that many Cincinnatians didn’t even know it existed. But I don’t blame WOXY for jumping at the chance to relocate to such a great live music town.
Rv: I understand that Cincinnati recently got a huge art fund boost?
LB: Yep. Louise Nippert recently donated $85 million to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Her husband was Louis Nippert, a descendent of the Gamble family (of Procter & Gamble). The gift will also benefit the Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati Opera and the May Festival. Nearly every arts group here, and everywhere, has been having financial troubles in this economy, and she basically single-handedly ensured the futures of those institutions.
Rv: In the grand scheme of things, was Paris Hilton a good thing or bad thing for this decade?
LB: Good. She brought us all together in shared scorn and made everyone feel much smarter.