Those who follow the ups and downs of professional music journalism are crowing this week about Rolling Stone High Priest Jann Wenner appointing his twenty-two year old son Gus as the head of RollingStone.com. Argle, they cried! Bargle, they moaned! The most nepotistic act since Jeb Bush stole Florida for his brother George, they sputtered through a mouthful of buttered croissant flakes and overly-sweetened coffee!
Listen, I can’t speak to this kid’s work ethic or industry knowledge or ability to sharpen pencil one, but there are far worse crimes a rich kid can commit than inheriting a piece of the family business (poor kids do it all the time). Also, as far as I’m concerned, Gus Wenner might as well be the new CEO of Big Lots. When’s the last time anyone said or thought, “You know who’s really on top of the online music journo game and is just completely flush with all sorts of amazing talent? Rolling Stone!”? I don’t think most of the world realized Rolling Stone even had a website until Matt Taibbi started tearing shit up a few years ago with all those financial collapse articles.
Speaking of which: Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone’s best writer, the only “name” it’s produced in years, is a political correspondent. Meanwhile, I can’t tell you who’s been covering music over there or think up any figure who’s built an audience writing about rock in those tight Springsteeny confines…and that’s sort of my racket.
That of course could change with Gus, if he can somehow break Roll One’s endless cycle of U2, Beach Boys, Beyoncé, Dylan, and BROOOOOOOCE coverage (all of whom currently appear in some kind of story on RS.com’s main page as of this writing). Ostensibly that’s why Wenner II was installed, right? He’s fresh out of college, he can go in directions away from his rich dad’s friends, find new talent, offer a different perspective, etc. I’m putting my faith in this kid because even though his dad is a monied institution who gave him a plum job I have to assume there’s some fire in there to make Gus want to buck the system. Don’t we all feel that at twenty-two?
On the other hand, Gus Wenner is in an adult contemporary / alt country band with Scout Willis, so maybe this is all moot. I mean, that could be a punchline from Andy Kindler’s act. “An ALT COUNTRY band with SCOUT WILLIS. Is this thing on?” We’ll see, I guess. I remain cautiously optimistic.
Writing about the rag pictured at right:
…They have constructed themselves upon the bizarre and defunct notion that mixing solid public affairs journalism with Britney Spears covers and paeans to plastic pop music is a formula for publishing success. It isn’t, any more. Whereas once people would have rushed out to newsstands to pick up copies of Rolling Stone and read what all fuss was about with McChrystal, now they either A) read that one single story on RS’s website, for free, or B) read it at the competition’s website for free…
“Rolling Stone—and Esquire, and Vanity Fair, for that matter—put out stories that are just as good as the stories in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, or any other high temple of journalism. But those stories are interspersed with such a great quantity of formulaic celebrity profiles and grooming tips that one is unable to take the magazine as a whole seriously. Everyone knows that you don’t need to subscribe to Rolling Stone in order to read the five great stories they publish every year; just wait until you hear those stories mentioned elsewhere and check in then.”
Preach on, brother man.