Knowledge Darts Vol. 21: You Want It To Be One Way… But It’s The OTHER Way
If the sneaker fits, wear it
This past week I was commenting on a particularly awkward sequence from the last episode of Complex’s Sneaker Shopping on Twitter. My tweets drew a response from show host and Complex VP of Content Strategy Joe La Puma. After a short exchange in which I aired my grievances about their choice to constantly invite guests who know little to nothing about sneakers he had an interesting retort. His tweet to me read “You have never and will never move anything over here Dart Adams. You’ve tried for 8 years. The try. And the fail.” I corrected Joe and told him I’d actually been trying for longer than that but let’s explore that comment and what it actually means, shall we?
Those who know me or have been reading me for a decade plus are now well aware of my many public clashes with sites and magazines ranging from Vibe to XXL, Global Grind, AllHipHop, Gawker, Rap Radar, HipHopDX and Genius. I’ve had back and forths with everyone from Byron Crawford to Kevin Nottingham, DJ Vlad, Peter Rosenberg and Elliott Wilson for varying reasons. I once shut down Touré by writing a response to his ahistoric article “How Hip Hop Failed America” and I even went up against Nelson George and Netflix last August when I wrote a piece detailing all of the ways “The Get Down” fell short. Whenever I’ve read a piece that was either factually inaccurate, ahistorical or problematic in any manner I’ve never hesitated to call it out regardless of where it ran. I was notorious for even critiquing articles that ran on Hip Hop Wired when I was writing for them to the point where Alvin Blanco requested I not do it publicly anymore.
When you critique things regularly, you tend to make enemies. Especially if a particular writer or site is constantly running news pieces, articles or features that fall into any of the multiple categories that will draw your constant attention. Over the past decade, Complex has run countless pieces by a veritable parade of different contributors that have contained glaring errors, key mistakes or were flat-out questionable. In all of those instances when I contacted either the author or an editor at Complex to mention that there were problems with a piece, I was met with indignation, indifference or simply ignored. In every instance, there was no explanation or apology made and absolutely no effort put forth to either correct the piece or make a public retraction. Mind you, I’m not the only observant journalist on Earth so that means they must have also ignored everyone else who pointed out similar problems. Remember that the writing community isn’t that big and we all talk.
Ignoring constant critique when it comes from a reputable journalist you don’t like is one thing, but building a reputation for never owning up to your mistakes is quite another. If you want to pretend as if the critique of your video content’s quality is irrelevant because the videos “do numbers” that’s on you. My issue lies with the wholesale disregard for journalistic integrity in terms of accuracy. I’ve had several situations with sites and Twitter feeds running something erroneous and the big difference is how they handle critique and their willingness to fix that mistake in a timely fashion. I’ve had situations with DJ Z of DJBooth in terms of my take on certain pieces that ended with him at first blocking me from the site’s Twitter account. When I explained on Twitter that he wasn’t keeping me from reading or accessing the posts on the site it resulted in a phone call where we were able to speak and he realized that I am going to do what I do no matter what. Ever since then he’s made it a point to listen whenever I raise an issue with a given DJBooth article.
I have a similar story with an MTV News piece that was so fraught with errors back in November that I was compelled to completely deconstruct it on Twitter. It got to the point where the editor, Jessica Hopper, and I had a discussion where we hashed everything out. In the end, the piece was corrected per my clarifications and she ended up reading some of my pieces then asked me to pitch to her and Pitchfork. I did neither but I appreciated the fact she actually engaged in a dialogue with me, listened, then did the right thing journalistically. When I was critical of an Anil Dash post from January we had an extended dialogue about it where we managed to find some common ground. Whenever Evan Auerbach at Up North Trips gets an anniversary wrong and I correct him, he thanks me via DM & deletes the Twitter post immediately. By comparison, when I informed Complex that LL Cool J and NOT Drake was the first rapper to be nominated for a Grammy for a diss track and he won back in February 1992 they never made a retraction. Par for the course.
Another example: back in September 2013, a team of three Complex writers compiled an oral history of The And1 Mixtape Tour in which the same paragraphs where posted multiple times in the piece and there was a glaring error where they misidentified And1 consultant/coach and streetball legend Steve “All Day” Burtt as “Steve Burke.” Mind you, anyone who is knowledgeable about streetball or the And1 Tour knew exactly who Steve Burtt was. When I brought these numerous problems to Complex’s attention my critique fell on deaf ears. We’re now approaching the 15th anniversary of the show “Streetball: The And1 Tour” airing on ESPN, which will lead to numerous people Googling articles about the And1 Tour. They are sure to stumble on that oral history on Complex—after all, it “did numbers”—and the misinformation will spread. Wondering how come it’s been up for almost 4 years with all of those mistakes still in it? Simple. Because the Complex editors refuse to listen to those asking them to uphold the basic tenets of journalism.
Any time I’ve ever had a dialogue with Noah Callahan-Bever over the lackluster content of the site he oversees nothing fruitful has come of it. In the past, I’ve pointed out the fact that a particular piece was tone deaf, or critiqued the company’s decision to dump a gang of writers and editors in favor of video content creators. Never made a dent. Has that ever stopped me from doing so? NOPE. Never. Joe La Puma and I have been having intermittent Twitter exchanges since 2009 for similar reasons and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. See, me not being able to change the standards over at Complex despite remaining steadfast in asking them to uphold the bare minimum of journalistic standards isn’t my failure. It’s theirs.
One of my favorite quotes is from the film Remember The Titans. Coach Boone (played by Denzel Washington) says “I may be a mean cuss, but I’m the same mean cuss with everybody out there on that football field.” To him, no one was above scrutiny. Every infraction incurred a penalty. If a written piece goes up that is subpar or I see any video content I find to be lacking I’m going to say so. If either continues to be produced, I will continue to comment on it regardless of where it runs or who’s responsible for it. I figured you’d all get used to me doing this by now after 11 years?