The case for Stomp and Stammer

I’ve often said that Stomp and Stammer ought to be examined in a laboratory as an unlikely example of a print media entity that somehow thrives in a digital media world.

Now, that examination could include its unfortunate self-destruction — which, at this writing, is ongoing and may be irreversible.

Jeff Clark - from Creative Loafing

Jeff Clark – photo from Creative Loafing

Stomp and Stammer is a modest Atlanta music magazine edited by Jeff Clark.  Clark wrote something very dumb and insensitive in his January 2014 issue.  Somebody took a photo of it — in the print edition, of course — and posted it on Tumblr.  The ensuing social media shitstorm was breathtaking.

The January issue included a 2013 review, and Clark wrote (or as editor, approved) the following:

  • Most Overdone Memorial: The ongoing posthumous deification of Ria Pell. She was a nice woman who opened a restaurant that helped revitalize a stretch of Memorial Drive. She was also unhealthy and met with an early death. Had she not been lesbian, had she been a straight woman or man we would have seen but a fraction of the reaction. Instead, she was unrealistically elevated into something she wasn’t: a symbolic figure.”

Yeesh.  Talk about tone deaf, ill-advised and wrongheaded.  This was the kind of aggrieved-white-guy crapola that made radio talk show host Neal Boortz a gazillionaire.  But while Boortz courted an audience of old, angry white folks, those aren’t Clark’s readers.

The S&S article that started the boycott (click to enlarge)

The S&S article that started the boycott (click to enlarge)

The folks who continue to mourn Ria Pell’s death — intown, diverse, gay-friendly — are the people who read S&S, patronize its advertisers and patronize the businesses that distribute the magazine.  They got very, very angry.  I don’t blame them.

They created a Facebook page.  They began contacting S&S’s advertisers, some of whom announced they’d pulled their February ads.  They began contacting the businesses that distribute S&S — or simply visited the businesses and swiped the pile of January issues that typically sit near the door.

They want to destroy S&S.  I’m here to argue that S&S shouldn’t be destroyed.

S&S has a right-wing tilt that automatically alienates much of its audience.  Its film critic, David T. Lindsey, routinely and happily goes into homophobic / angry-white-man territory.  I read Lindsey’s stuff knowing it’ll often test my gag reflex.

But politics is only a subtext.  As a music magazine, S&S has thrived because it’s smart and clever.  It’s mostly well-written.  It’s exceptionally well edited — you never see a typo or mangled prose in its copy.  And it’s fun — even when it’s infuriating.

It’s also overwhelmingly positive.  I don’t know of a piece of local media that promotes Atlanta and Georgia music as singlemindedly as S&S.

echo_signOne of S&S’s virtues has been its willingness to piss people off.  As editor of the magazine, Clark wrote critically about Atlanta music institutions like the Star Bar, the (defunct) Echo Lounge and Criminal Records.  They all advertised in S&S.

Clark’s editorial decisions to take on his own advertisers took guts and gave S&S journalistic credibility.  (I’m not here to fact-check those pieces.)  Niche magazines struggling to survive typically find a way to sidestep such conflicts – by shading the truth or ignoring important subjects.  Clark deserves credit for his willingness to occasionally risk his own advertising revenue in pursuit of the truth.

Some folks have suggested that if S&S disappeared, a replacement magazine or site would fill the void.  But it’s unlikely a startup would take the journalistic risks that Clark is willing to take.

Clark also writes brief yet hilarious critiques of (what he considers to be) crappy music and musicians.  In the context of each issue of S&S, they are isolated bits of vinegar in an otherwise upbeat salad of music news.  He has clobbered friends of mine, and perhaps yours too.  Yet these vignettes are the guilty pleasure that often drive his readers to pick up the magazine.

They also built years of individual resentments, which coalesced last week.

S&S is a free magazine. The two things that made S&S financially viable — adequate advertising and low-cost distribution — are now under attack.  It only takes a few determined individuals to make the magazine disappear from the coffee shops, bars and record stores that distribute it.  If the magazine can’t be found, then there is no magazine.

The same day the shitstorm started, Clark wrote an apology on his Facebook page.  It appeared heartfelt.  It also appeared to driven to save his magazine.  I see no dishonor in that; clearly, the angry mob got his attention.  The apology blunted some of the the anger, but much of it remains.  That, too, is understandable.

On the anti-S&S Facebook group, there were ‘way too many people who posted stuff about physically harming Clark.  Like Clark’s post, those comments were (at best) crude and insensitive.

To their credit, the administrators of the FB group deleted those comments and booted those people.  Presumably, those commenters went away quietly, without any threat to their freedom (like a felony charge of making terroristic threats) or their livelihood, which is what Clark faces now.

I’d like to be able to write a rousing defense of Clark, but I can’t.  (Clark is a friend of mine, but not a close friend.  Likewise, my wife and I have many friends who are members of the Boycott Stomp and Stammer FB group.) His insensitive remark is indefensible.  It wasn’t homophobic, but it was too close for comfort.

The January 2013 issue

The January 2013 issue

However, I would argue that S&S makes Atlanta a more interesting place.  If it goes away, let it go away because the free market deems it unworthy.

In the February issue of S&S, I’m guessing that Clark will elaborate on the apology.  He will probably give ample space to his detractors.

Here’s my respectfully-submitted suggestion to Clark’s critics:  Let the February issue of S&S get distributed unfettered.  That means, don’t swipe piles of it from distribution sites.  Read what he has to say.  Let the rest of us read it.  See how respectful he is of his critics.  Observe how much / how little advertising there is in it, the direct result of your campaign.

Then put it all in context by asking

  • Has S&S been a credible, interesting and entertaining publication for 17 years?
  • Does the anti-S&S Facebook group prove that some of Clark’s critics are equally capable of writing isolated idiotic crap?
  • Does Clark deserve any measure of credit for apologizing for what he called his “crude, hurtful, disrespectful and insensitive” piece?
  • Did any of the people threatening him apologize?
  • Has Clark given the shitstorm he caused appropriately respectful treatment?
  • Is the Ria Pell post, and other assorted gripes, worth the continued effort to extinguish S&S?
  • Is Atlanta better off with S&S, or without it?

Weigh all that.  Then make an intelligent decision — and not just an emotional one — on how much continued effort to put into the destruction of Stomp and Stammer.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

20 thoughts on “The case for Stomp and Stammer

  1. Rod Steel

    While I enjoy your blog, even wish you posted more often, However I would prefer that the people who were offended by the missive were the ones who were against the demise of Stomp and Stammer. What I have found is that whites allow “angry white guys” to get by without being checked. While we all believe in free speech, it’s not free of consequences. These are deserved.

    Reply
  2. Scott Roberts

    And I always thought Jez married you exclusively because of your good looks, Doug! Turns out you are a thoughtful, articulate, reasonable man as well : ). Bravo on putting some much-needed perspective on a very touchy issue. Like you, I’ve known Jeff a long time (though we are not what you’d call “friends”) and whether I’ve agreed with him or not–musically or politically–I generally think he is an entertaining and decent guy, in spite of himself. I definitely think the Atlanta music community would be a much poorer place without his presence. I hope people will heed your advice here and really think about what they want. Peace on!

    Scott R.

    Reply
  3. LaLaMeeka Chadwalli

    Meh much ado about nothing. Clark is entertaining. Clark is not politically correct, so what. At least it is not the mind numbing drivel that passes for written media in our fine city.

    Reply
  4. Beth

    I think we should let the free market determine the fate of S&S. In a capitalist society – in a libertarian society – consumers decide with their dollars. I don’t see the difference between this and the Limbaugh/Fluke debacle. I love how when it comes to boycotts and trial lawyers all the sudden conservatives don’t think the free market is the answer. Furthermore, I would argue crying reverse-homophobia is indeed, homophobia.

    Reply
  5. Bret Love

    I won’t comment of Jeff’s situation, since I know too many of those involved personally to be truly objective. But I do want to address this sentence: “I don’t know of a piece of local media that promotes Atlanta and Georgia music as singlemindedly as S&S.”

    GEORGIA MUSIC MAGAZINE has been publishing a quarterly glossy magazine dedicated to ALL of GA’s music (not just music for hipsters) for around seven years now, with nary a mean-spirited or homophobic comment to be found. Originally funded by the state as the official publication of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, it has been independent for several years, and is currently struggling for survival.

    Many of our state’s finest music writers, including James Kelly, Jewly Hight, Lee Valentine Smith, Candice Dyer, Chris Hassiotis, Hal Horowitz and myself, have been working with the magazine for years. But the publication– a labor of love for publisher Lisa Love– has never gotten the attention it deserves. Just thought you should know…

    Reply
  6. Left of the Dial

    Well done. Doug Richards is a good man, a great guy who loves music & an excellent reporter. I completely agree on all counts. Of course, I was horrified & saddened by Jeff’s comment but he doesn’t deserve to be burned at the stake. While I disagree with Jeff & David T. Lindsay politically (I’ve known them for 20 & 30 years), I still like & respect them. Yes, they piss people off & yes, Jeff stepped way over the line this time, but they’ve devoted their lives and have supported Atlanta/Athens music like no one else.

    Reply
  7. Bellamomma

    I appreciate your thoughtful words and the perspective you bring to this whole debacle. I also think that as a free market, consumers shop where they are welcomed and appreciated. I believe what we are witnessing is on many levels a response to not feeling welcomed and appreciated anymore. Jeff has done this before and he has continuously ragged on various individuals and bands and bars in the past and despite the value of so many other components to his rag…Perhaps this is just the last straw. Perhaps this is just the free market saying enough is enough. In this age of digital media, it’s much easier to communicate quickly and mobilize at lightening speed. That is what happened. His rant came out right about the time that many folks were hitting the “anger” phase of grief, his timely insults made it very easy for that same community of people that read, buy advertising and otherwise support Jeff’s rag to turn their hurt, grief and anger onto someone that well, deserves it. The reality is that many folks have said “yeah, Jeff is a jerk, but this time it was just too much”…do we really need to make exceptions for him because he edits well and provides an alternative rag to highlight what is happening in the city? I’ve made my peace with Jeff at this point and realize that he is challenged with a fork tongue and an insatiable desire for attention. He screwed up. Royally.

    As far as the threats go, it’s not cool to threaten bodily harm on anyone – yeah, I get that. I also think that the small handful of folks that were making said threats were old punk rock friends of Ria’s and were shouting out threats because they are angry that their pal was so painfully and rudely disrespected. I would hope those words were in retaliation to Jeff’s words and there was no real intent on carrying out those threats. I’m not making up excuses for that, but I get it. Like you said – the folks that were leading the rally to boycott swiftly handled that and a couple of them did make note that they would not actually be hurting Jeff, but still hated him. I also don’t think their threats or intents really swayed anyone’s decision to continue their boycotting.

    At the end of the day, your list of questions make sense – and my guess is that we shall see in the next couple of months what happens to Stomp & Stammer…but let’s not blame angry Ria supporters…Jeff knew what he was doing and against all pleas to not print, he moved forward. Consequences for choices made are just that.

    Reply
  8. Jas. M. Stacy

    Doug,
    Great discussion.

    Jeff Clarke has been cartoonishly running his mouth about me for 15 years.
    Most of the time it comes off as absurd sour grapes or downright jealousy. It is never an actual piece of constructive criticism or examination of whatever I’ve recently done to get his bony hackles up. I can’t remember pissing in his Wheaties, but I must have.
    I understand the perils of living a public life and taking the good reviews with the bad. When the end of the day rolls around I have a wonderful Wife and family who don’t give two good god-damns what Jeff Clarke says, thinks or whines about. That is where we are probably different, he and I.

    I think he’s a sad loner with a pathological need to stir shit up. Not a villain. Not a First Amendment hero.

    That is why some of what I’m about to say is going to seem weird.

    I like the rabble rousing element to what he does. Yes, even after everything the guy has done and said, I still think his right to say whatever he wants plays an important role in Atlanta. I think HE plays an important role in Atlanta.
    Do I think he does it with any sort of class?
    Absolutely not.
    He’s not enough of an intellectual to pull it off without blowing some sort of dog whistle in every issue. He could have said any of the things he said, with better timing and ANY ability to show empathy and forethought and actually participated in the process, instead of shouting, “look at me! Look at me!”
    He just couldn’t seem to muster that. He remains a valuable voice though.

    I was a part of the initial boycott because it was time for friends of Ria’s to decide if their advertising dollars should continue to go to Clarke. I will never have an advertising dollar go to him again. I advertised with S&S many times, even after some of his most caustic pieces about me. That will not continue. Each advertiser has the right to decide. I have exercised mine. Though I sincerely hope Stomp and Stammer gets through this, intact. It will continue without one scintilla of support from me – but I hope it continues. I hope Clarke has to fundamentally reassess what it is he stands for and figure out how to stay in business. He should have to learn and grow from this. He and DTL are staunch Freemarketeers, they have all the answers. Or seem to write like they did.

    I left the boycott after the first day. Mainly because the some of the people boycotting had become as bad, if not worse than Clarke ever was. I also could handle no more Constitutional tutelage from people comparing a duck hunting millionaire to a civil rights icon as some sort of statement on this matter.
    Mind boggling.

    I was disappointed he folded so quickly. That he didn’t stick to his guns longer. The quickness of his apology is what undermines him the most to me – not what he actually wrote. For someone so unconcerned about being hated – he rolled pretty fast. It smacked of damage control as much as anything else. The threats of violence against him were a paper tiger. Threats made by morons. Few people have the guts to deal with an assault charge – it’s all just bluster behind a keyboard – ironically the very thing they found Clarke guilty of. He may have been tone deaf, insensitive and a regular run of the mill dick – but an ass whipping would have just strengthened his outsider, crank persona.

    He should have to look Kiki and Ria’s Mom, Vibeke, in the face, in person and apologize earnestly.
    After that is done the issue should be considered settled.
    I’ll set the meet up for him if he needs me to.

    I hope he continues to publish and somehow grow into a better person – whatever that means. Hopefully there will be positive in this for him.

    Ria’s family and friends should continue to heal and grieve – but move on.
    I have seen more than enough people state they “know what Ria would have done.”
    No. No they don’t.
    I knew her pretty well and would not assume anything about her.
    She would have gotten the fuck back to work though.
    She was an activist and activists don’t stop.

    Jim Stacy

    Reply
      1. live apt fire Post author

        I finally found a copy of the January 2014 issue at Wax n Facts in L5P. In it, Jeff names Jim Stacy as “embarrassment of the year” for his fried food demonstrations with Jay Leno on the Tonight show. Jim’s comment is very generous. Thank you, Jim — and thanks to everybody who read this, commented and / or thought about this issue a bit more. A dear friend who knew Ria told my wife that my post is wrongheaded and that I’d have never written it if I’d known Ria (which I didn’t). I respect her opinion and the grief of Ria’s friends.

        Reply
  9. lattaland

    “.While we all believe in free speech, it’s not free of consequences. ” I saw this sentiment a million different ways. Tell that to Pussy Riot.

    Reply
    1. Jas. M. Stacy

      I’m sorry, was Jeff imprisoned? As far as I can tell he is still free to eat out, drink beers and publish a magazine.
      He got grounded and had to apologize. Tell that to Pussy Riot.

      Reply
  10. Anonymous

    Dearest Jim, you really know my daughter well, I agree a personal apology would help with healing. His comments sent me reeling, just when I was starting to get myself together,am doing better now. I just hope and pray, that he thinks before he prints, we know now that he doesn’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot,you can critique without being hateful,most everyone I know welcomes a constructive critique, how else can we improve,and become better? Hopefully we can all get back to some kind of normalcy , and harness some of this energy into something good!! Something that will make Ria proud of all her peeps, it’s the only way to move forward . Thank you love for hearing me out! You and your beautiful wife will always be in my heart!! Xoxo Vibeke

    Reply
    1. Beth

      A funeral is not a performance and therefore requires no critique. Ria was admired and loved. That rag does not have the power to take away the love and respect the community has for her. Nor does it have the power to take away the contributions she made to our neighborhoods. I guess he lacks the imagination for the possibility that someone can be so loved by so many people. He insisted that the outpouring of support wasn’t sincere. It was because people thought she was special because she was lesbian. That sounds like the reasoning of a child complaining about a teacher who has favorites. Right now, I feel pity for Jeff. Cynicism is appropriate for politics but not for people grieving loved ones. That takes a special kind of hardened heart – one that is missing out on what the world has to offer.

      Reply
  11. Og Ogglby

    After working in the progressive media for a few decades, the thing that I’ve grown tired of is the desire to be cool. To be taken seriously you can’t be nice, because being nice and cool aren’t compatible. So, you have to make fun of others and make your “art” so inaccessible that no one likes it. We all should live and let live. We would then be secure enough to not criticize others to make ourselves feel better, and we wouldn’t care if they made comments devoid of compassion.

    Reply

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