Every once in a while when I’m trying to sound important in an editorial meeting, I’ll pull out this line: “We can never forget that even though we’re all drummers around this table, it’s just as crucial that we’re journalists as well.” It’s not a phrase you often hear, drum journalist. But at Modern Drummer we’ve always believed that it’s imperative to think of our work in those terms.
In the drumming world we don’t deal with issues of life and death like hard-news outlets do. But the principles of journalism, such as editorial independence and the pursuit of facts, should be followed no matter what the subject is. Sadly, not everyone in the drum media seems to feel that way.
Since Modern Drummer was established in 1977, a number of other publications have come on the scene. Some offer top-flight content. Others, unfortunately, have focused on things like gender issues, fashion spreads, or the past music-industry credits of its editor, all at the expense of historical accuracy and journalistic credibility. And as we speak, one publication is trying to convince readers that its decision to regress from a monthly to a quarterly is somehow good news. Gee, are there really so few great players and important concepts to talk about that you only have to check in with folks once every season? Our research certainly doesn’t show that.
In the print world, taking editorial shortcuts, pandering to certain segments of the population, and fostering a cult of personality simply cannot substitute for the fundamentals of journalism, like fact-checking, concise writing, and having a dedicated, full staff of individuals with a multiplicity of viewpoints and experiences. Journalism, even drum journalism, can be rigorous work. There’s maybe 50,000 words in an average issue of Modern Drummer, not to mention reams of often quite complex musical examples. That makes for a whole lot of opportunities to screw up each month! But by following the essential, time-honored tenets of journalism, we can feel confident that we’re building each new issue of MD on a solid foundation.
None of this is to suggest that Modern Drummer is perfect. We make mistakes, just like all publications. I’ve certainly made some doozies myself over the years. What’s important is to try to correct those mistakes when they do happen, learn from the experience, and continue to doggedly adhere to the principles of our discipline. It’s what readers have demanded of us for more than forty years. We hope and expect that you’ll still be demanding that of us forty years from now. Because you deserve nothing less.