Wednesday, August 09, 2006

An Open Letter To Ryan Schreiber of Pitchforkmedia.com

Dear Ryan: Last week when you asked for my photographer's contact info because you wanted to use a couple of the Pitchfork Festival shots that were posted on Radio Free Chicago for your very own coverage, I thought I was doing you a favor. I guess I could've been like, "how much are they worth to ya?" Or perhaps I should’ve got all competitive about things and refused to release any of the pics. But none of that really crossed my mind at the time. Our sites are like apples and oranges. We're local and focus on live music, you're national and focus on album reviews. Not to mention I've respected your work for years and was just flattered that our coverage attracted your attention. So, even though I got back to you right away, was more than happy to comply with your request and forwarded you Rory's info, why do I feel like I got totally taken advantage of here? Yes, technically, you did follow through with what I asked. Rory got the photo credit, Radio Free Chicago got a link. But c'mon, could you have hidden the hyperlink any better? No bold or underscore on Rory's name...not even a different font color to give even the slightest indication that there's a link there. Furthermore, the piece is solely credited to "Pitchfork Staff," (which is a glaring inaccuracy) so why would anyone even think to look for an external link where there may be more pictures elsewhere? The point being is that I obviously agreed to let you use the pics because I thought we'd be getting a mention and a nice boost in traffic in return. This is pretty much standard practice these days when trading content between Web sites, no? I would think you, of all people, would understand and appreciate this concept. So why would you bury the link in a non-descript spot that you know is going to lead to virtually no hits for us? Most of all, why would you not even bother to put a quick "thanks to Radio Free Chicago" in your intro or at the very least in a footnote at the end? Come to think of it, you didn't even reply with a quick "thanks, man" via email after I gave you my blessing and forwarded you to Rory?!? I don't get it...there's no competition here, right? Pitchfork certainly isn't in danger of losing thousands of readers to Radio Free Chicago. You struggled in obscurity for many years trying to get Pitchfork off the ground, no? Why wouldn’t you want to support fellow underground music journalists like yourself in the local community? I could be wrong, but it seems like there's some seriously unwarranted competitive paranoia going on here. Speaking of which, what was the deal with the clamp down on the press at your festival? Photogs were only allowed to shoot during the first 3 songs, we were banished from the artist/VIP section and given the saddest press area/tent that I've ever seen. To be fair, I guess I don't know how directly involved you were with the festival logistics, but I found it ironic that of all the times I've had press privileges at concerts and other events, I probably received the least amount of access at the Pitchfork Festival...a festival run by a press outlet! You'd think of all the concert/festival organizers in the world, you guys would be the most sympathetic to giving the press easy access and ample amenities. So, I don't know what's going on over there at Pitchfork HQ these days, but it seems to me that your success has, in fact, totally gone to your head and you need to loosen up a bit. I first sensed this odd paranoia with the way you handled (more like ignored) your split with Intonation. Then, at your own festival, I got this odd feeing that you were limiting press access so that no one could trump your own coverage. Then I thought, "nah...the heat’s just messing with my head, reading into this waaaay too much." I even gave you the benefit of the doubt when I saw you didn't mention Radio Free Chicago in last week's piece. I was angry at first, but then I thought..."well maybe he was in a hurry to finish it, overlooked it, forgot, etc." So I dropped you a line and asked if you could highlight the link better and give RFC credit at the bottom. No reply. “Well, maybe he’ll add a quick note later…” Nothing. Damn, did my conspiracy theory actually have some validity? The reason I was drawn to your site in the first place years ago was because of its irreverence and honesty. It was completely refreshing in the world of the stale, boardroom-approved reviews found in the likes of the modern day Rolling Stone and Spin magazines. For years I defended Pitchfork to friends, co-workers, drunk dudes at bars, etc. who always bitched that you guys were all pretentious, self-important pricks. "No," I always said, "it's not the staff themselves, it's the readers’ fault for taking their reviews too damn seriously." Well, either things have changed, or I've just been flat out wrong this whole time. You've still got a great thing going on over there at the 'Fork, and judging by the massive crowd that you drew to your festival, I don't think you're in danger of becoming irrelevant any time soon. So don't fuck it up by getting all insular and cocky atop your little indie rock empire. Otherwise you're in serious danger of just becoming that same type of bullying big media outlet that you once seemingly rallied so hard against.

10 Comments:

Anonymous cinchel said...

not to add fuel to the fire but I would like to mention that at intonation fest earlier this year the press was not restricted to only the first 3 songs. This may have helped ease the congestion in the "pit" as it was fairly open and easy to move around in during the sets, from my observation.

now maybe this was something new that they were trying out this year. and maybe they will try something different next year.

i agree though that all-in-all it was a good fest, although it was curious that there were no thax poems, but Tim still MCeed. i hope this lack of local support in the blog arena is not a sign of bigger things to come. last year the big thing that i toook away from the hole fest was the way it supported and showcased the chicago scene (music, arts, etc) to a bunch of ppl who may not all have been from the city. and i think it still did that to a large part on those 2 days but maybe it should have carried that over to this post fest coverage.

8/09/2006 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger jswede said...

pretty disappointing to see RFC taken advantage of like that... keep us posted if he gets back to you.

8/09/2006 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Marc H. said...

Hi Brad,

Pitchfork staff writer Marc Hogan here. So sorry to read about all of this! I don't know what happened, but I've forwarded this blog post to the folks at the Pitchfork offices, and I hope you'll get some kind of response soon.

I can say, though, that I'm sure there was no malicious intent. Anyway, I hope you'll hear something more official ASAP, but I just wanted to make sure you didn't think you were being ignored.

Best,
Marc

8/09/2006 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill V said...

I'm totally out of the loop on what goes on with "real blog sites" and web sites like Pfork. But my guess is that Ryan had little or nothing to do with this problem. Hope y'all get it straightened out as like RFC and Pfork quite a bit. Loved the festival. The staff at TLTP was even able to pick up a press pass for part of Sunday, and did a pretty good job at hanging (and staying) back stage. Man you folks are good at consuming free beer! Also enjoy Ryan's WLUW show when I can catch it.

8/10/2006 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill V...Yes, we know you like indie rock and loved the Pitchfork fest this year. You've already mentioned this 5 times on this site and like a dozen others.

8/10/2006 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger RetroLowFI said...

Ouch.

Anyonymous: 1

Pitchfork: 0

8/10/2006 11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous avantchicago said...

Not to RFC - Pitchfork is way fast irrelevant! Well stil relevant to yipsters!

8/10/2006 11:55:00 PM  
Anonymous K-Hole said...

Word on the letter to Ryan Schreiber. I thought Pitchfork fest. was lackluster this year, but maybe I was expecting too much. I know you made it clear that you weren't trying to knock the staff writers, but it would have been okay with me if you had. I think most of their reviews are totally over the top and boring to read. When I read one, I probably take in a combination of three complete sentences and six or seven fragments of text and go on my merry way. I'll have the did-you-like-the-record with a side of band bio, light on the arrogance, hold your personal life. Thanks!

8/11/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Pinko Punko said...

The best part about Pfork limiting coverage of their own festival is the delicious irony of them having to ask for photos for their own coverage.

And even though Hogan bugs the crap out of us sometimes, he's a super stand up guy on the web and we salute him.

8/17/2006 01:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo, Pitchfork is losing readers, Ive been looking for a decent site for a while that is easy to navigate and not all band hype. Ill read this more now

9/11/2006 03:36:00 AM  

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