My friend in haterville, Michael Arceneaux, sent me this video of Sharon Carpenter’s recent interview with Power 105’s The Breakfast Club and she seems just as grating, in a slightly more natural setting, as she comes across on TV (perhaps it’s the accent). I don’t know her so, maybe she’s actually cool when she’s not on but personalities like that are common in the industry and part of why I’m in therapy. I’m in a space where I’m still passionate about media and journalism but it just doesn’t exist with any integrity anymore. Entertainment journalism has technically always been fluff but I found that when I was coming up in the 90s, and being intrigued by media on all fronts (from Barbara Walters to Big Lez), there was more thought provoking content and less vapidness. Today, everyone is a brand and everyone wants to be famous and everyone wants to beat you in the head with who they know and what they’ve done and what they’re working on and most can’t back the shit up. You can watch Sharon’s Breakfast Club interview below or just skip it to read the rest of why I think her sentiment on The Gossip Game–one shared by a lot of people–is silly.
For those who don’t watch the show, Sharon Carpenter keeps reminding everyone what her credentials are and on the last episode of The Gossip Game, she and JasFly got into it because it seemed that Sharon was implying that she was a better journalist because she worked with outlets like BBC and CBS, but JasFly and the people of #BlackTwitter (self included) reminded Sharon that she is currently with Global Grind. There’s actually nothing wrong with working for Global Grind. It’s the typical celebrity news site and it’s owned by Russell Simmons. Every now and then they try to balance out the celebrity fudge with more socially conscious stuff but despite it all, they are still urban and JasFly had a point when she reminded Carpenter that they were in the same career arena. And in case you readers didn’t know, media is one of the industries that was hit the hardest by the recession.
Kim Osorio remarked, in the first episode of The Gossip Game, that there’s a hierarchy in the industry. She said that the TV and radio personalities who actually work for reputable stations are at the top, the print journalists are in the middle and then the bloggers are on the bottom. I agree that the TV and radio personalities are still top tier but print journalists and bloggers, although the two require different skill sets, are in the same arena.
I say this because even reputable magazines are trying to follow the blogger model when it comes to their websites. Admittedly, I started out as a journalist, but I haven’t been a journalist in a very long time and that’s all I’ll say about that. There’s this rat race on the internet, which dominates all media as far as how information is distributed, to see who can be the most egregious, who can get a story up first, or who can get the “exclusive,” even if that exclusive is a tip from a source that wasn’t fact checked and it’s disheartening. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a popular once creative and well-reported outlet that told staffers that their tone of voice should be more like [insert popular blogger here]. It’s frustrating. And for me to even write this is probably raising eyebrows (because you’re supposed to keep everything PC so you don’t “ruin relationships”). But I kinda don’t care anymore. I haven’t been shown loyalty by any company.
I’m still passionate about journalism and telling the the stories of people who are hiding in plain site, as I like to say, but in this new market, credentials don’t matter as much–at least not to me. I’ve been laid off twice and forced to freelance for most of my career. My experience, for someone who has wanted to be a journalist since she was nine, and an entertainment journalist since high school, has been disheartening. However, despite that fact I’ve learned an important lesson. When I started years ago at XXL magazine, I was Starrene from XXL until I got laid off and had to freelance. And several outlets later, here I am but I’ve learned to just be Starrene without affiliation. Having an affiliation can be still nice at times but what the high turn around rate at most of these companies has taught me is that ownership of myself, my work and my brand matters the most. I’d rather not toss around credentials like I’m part of a set that ultimately won’t have my back in the end (they always tell you it’s business, not personal when they let you go).
That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this game and I hope people who are still trying to get in learn that before they become successful. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive to for other companies, just don’t get consumed by idea of affiliation unless it’s a house you built.