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Friday, November 19, 2021

Party Like a Journalist

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There aren’t too many songs celebrating what I do. There are songs about dancers, drug dealers, working class heroes, miners… but none that I know of about documenters. Well, finally someone wrote an awesome (albeit tongue and cheek) song celebrating journalists. I looked up the creator of this work of genius on Twitter and asked him if he’d answer a couple of questions. He obliged.

 

“This is how we #partylikeajournalist. Featuring singer/editor/photographer extraordinaire Justin Kroger on the chorus, mixed by @LanskySound, produced by Gramatik & Break Science, written and performed by Matt Johnson.”

But first – check out this beat.

Matt Johnson is a journalist at CBS 8 News in San Diego, California.

Zach: What’s your day job?

Matt Johnson: My day job is general assignment reporter for KFMB-TV (CBS) in San Diego, CA. That pretty much entails chasing down breaking news, covering City Hall, or sorting the latest sexual harassment allegations against our increasingly polarizing mayor.

Have you always made music? What put you up to making this track?

I’ve been making music since I was 16. I’ve always been an introvert, and songwrting was my outlet for venting or just being goofy. There was this song I wrote called “I Ain’t Going To Class” which was about my favorite thing to do in high school and my early years of college. Later, I wrote “Fake ID”, which is the most personal song I probably will ever write. It’s about growing up biracial in the suburbs. Not to get too self-involved, but that song was a huge turning point in me dropping my fake identity as a tough guy black guy and just accepting who I am as biracial (Black/Persian) and wonderfully unique.

Oh yeah, you asked about PLAJ. That song just really grew out of the line about breaking news getting the adrenaline flowing. I wrote that down one day, then wrote down the line about the true story with the guy asking how I graduated college. Then I strung together some more lines about being a journalist and a song was born. I still get the itch to write all the time, and I just so happen to have a career that’s interesting enough to fill a whole song.

Clearly you love being a journalist – when did you decide that you wanted to be one?

When I failed at everything else, I always came back to writing. I’ve always been a strong writer and storyteller. Eventually, I got tired of telling my own story through songs so I explored telling other people’s stories through school newspapers, and later through college broadcasts.

What do you see for the future of our profession? Are we all screwed?

I feel like I’m getting into this at one of the last possible moments to break into broadcast news. Four years ago I don’t think most stations across the country were even broadcasting in HD, so I can’t imagine what the industry will be like for today’s college freshmen. For TV news, stations are remaining profitable because the older demographic is locked in. They’ve always watched the local news and that’s not going to change. But what happens when they die off? That’s the question that terrifies me. Twenty years from now, when all our loyal viewers are dead and I’m too old to be job hunting, will I still have a career? You can cut expenses and jobs for only so long before it’s time to come up with a new strategy. I think they key is making young people trust and support journalism. Reddit sees Charlie LeDuff doing gonzo journalism in Detroit and they freak out with excitement like, “What if everyone did this?” I’m not entirely sure how to get our generation to watch the local news or subscribe to newspapers. I do know that if the plan is to make cuts until they reach the ridiculousness of the Chicago Sun-Times, people will be like “What the hell, I can shoot pictures on my iPhone myself.”

You used to work in Arkansas and now in California… What’s the difference between the two states in the news?

Little Rock was a great experience because it’s a great news town. I felt like I was making a connection with the viewers and the community every day. People would see Channel 7 reporters out and about and say “I watch you all the time!” It wasn’t so much about being recognized as it was you knew people were watching. In San Diego, they tell me people are watching but the city is so big I could probably go 2 years without meeting a single viewer in public.

I remember when I was an intern at KABC in LA and I asked a reporter what it was like working in Washington DC and she said, “Well it’s the same as anywhere else.” I thought she was out of her mind. How could working in the nation’s capitol be the same as anywhere else? Now that I’ve worked in three cities, I know the news doesn’t change. Houses still burn, people still get shot, and communities still rebuild after disasters.

What kind of responses to the song did you get?

From what I saw with tweets and blogs, the song got pretty much universal praise from my fellow journos. There’s something about being able to share frustration that just makes us so incredibly happy. The other day BuzzFeed made a post like “13 things Journalists know to be true” full of the most cliché complaints someone still in J-school could probably list but I read it like, “YES!” With “Party Like A Journalist” it’s like that emotion on crack because it’s filled with relatable clichés, but they freaking rhyme.

Just something to add in here…I couldn’t be more appreciative of the overall response to the song. It was incredibly rewarding to have people from across the globe really saying how much they liked the lyrics. I think one of the reasons I haven’t been able to stop thinking about music, even after I launched my news career, was that there’s some unfinished business. I’ve always been fascinated by how few concept albums there are. So after this song came out I started thinking about how I could possibly top it. I’m working on a concept album about a conflicted reporter that I think will just blow people away. I started working on this dystopian song where traditional media has died out, and citizen journalism has taken over that’s pretty chilling just to even write. I’m excited about it; I think concept albums are a woefully underutilized method for storytelling.

Have you gotten more attention on this from bloggers than journalists? (do you see a difference?)

I think I’ve heard from more journalists than bloggers about the song. I wrote it with the mindset and experiences of a reporter, so I think more traditional journalists identified with it than bloggers. I mean, if you’re blogging about executive sessions, you’re doing it wrong…you need to at least get a legit byline out of it. But I wrote this for everyone. We’re all in the same (sinking?) boat.

******

Here’s two pieces of excellent journalism from Matt  – please check them out.

Escondido woman turns terrier’s tragedy into hope

http://www.cbs8.com/story/22923890/escondido-woman-turns-terriers-tragedy-into-hope

http://www.cbs8.com/category/155799/video-landing-page?clipId=9080486&autostart=true

You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattCBS8

Comments

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Comments
One Response to “Party Like a Journalist”
  1. Zyxomma says:

    Great interview, Zach. It’s not my kind of music, but I enjoyed the lyrics.

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