What's it like to be a big-time music writer at a major metropolitan newspaper?

45 Months in the Life of a Register Rock Critic

In May 1997, they added a section to the Sunday Show called Encore, which is meant to focus on "fine" arts like dance, classical music, theater and art exhibits. It's pathetic, elitist twaddle, segregating culture into separate camps, as if rock, jazz, film and television were somehow less worthy.

Standards of what editors will and won't allow to run in the paper are wildly inconsistent. For two weeks last year, the Reg censored the title of Meredith Brooks' hit "Bitch" from its Friday Billboard chart listings, renaming it "B----," despite the fact that radio stations, DJs, MTV and virtually every other print medium in the country had no problem with the word. Yet they'll let humor columnist Jeff Kramer pen a double-entendre column about "presidential seamen" that reads like it was lifted from an old Three's Company script.

I feel especially for Show, though, which has always been the Register's idiot bastard son compared to, say, the paper's sports section. The sports department is blessed with what seem to be bottomless pockets, judging purely by the locales sports reporters have filed from in the past year and a half: Jeff Miller in St. Louis for the McGwire-Sosa shootout; Janis Carr in New York for the U.S. Tennis Open; Steve Bisheff in San Diego for Ryan Leaf's quarterback debut; Cammy Clark in Tokyo for a Mighty Ducks game; Earl Bloom in Cooperstown for Tommy Lasorda's Hall of Fame induction; Larry Bortstein on the road with the Mission Viejo Vigilantes.

Columnist Mark Whicker is the most frequent flier of the bunch, jetting off to places like Washington; South Bend, Indiana; Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Chicago; and Minneapolis-all in just a few months over the summer.

None of this traveling is bad, of course. It's what you should expect from a major daily paper the size of the Register. Show's coverage of entertainment issues and events could easily be as widespread as sports, if only the Freedom Communications suits who hold the purse strings would allow it. Why not send pop scribe Ben Wener to Austin for South by Southwest? Why not send film writer Henry Sheehan to Cannes, or theater critic Paul Hodgins to New York to cover the Tony Awards?

The Reg is a 45-minute drive from Hollywood, and if the Register powers that be really wanted to make the effort, they could come up with a tab that's every bit as informative as the Times' Calendar section. But until the Register gets serious about its arts coverage, Show will continue to be the anemic rag it's always been.

But nobody buys the Register for its entertainment section. People pick it up so they can prop up their own smelly little orthodoxies. Until that changes, the Register will continue to trudge along as it always has, their "associates" and freelancers will continue to grumble, and eventually, another rebel-like the one who produced the Slave4OCR Web site-will unfurl a bloody flag.

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