“The Honesty Epidemic” RE: The 5SOS Article

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I’m not particularly a fan of the band 5 Seconds of Summer. I’ve seen them twice, but not on purpose. I went to a One Direction concert in 2014 when they opened and I saw them at Jingle Ball Boston, also in 2014, which you might know as a basic compilation of 10+ different artists. I don’t care for their music and I don’t really care for the guys in the band either.

However, I am a fan of Rolling Stone. I can’t afford a subscription, but I do read the website daily, I follow their Twitter and working for RS is my dream job. Music journalism is the thing I love. And when I saw that 5SOS was on the cover, I read the story because it was out there, and I have a few things to say about it. (I’m not going to mention anything about the cover, even though people are practically drooling over them being naked while they shame female musicians for wearing little clothing in a video or in a magazine. Also, I’m not re-posting the picture because that doesn’t belong on my blog)

Fans of 5SOS are arguing that RS did a bad job of depicting the band, as they were shown as hardcore partiers who like to get drunk and have sex. They were depicted as cocky and arrogant, and only talked about using the fans as groupies and never even really discussed their music besides their persistent argument that the band is “punk rock” or “pop punk” (personally, I think they’re neither [they’re pop]). Fans are saying that RS is to blame and they wrote an awful article and that the magazine has gone down the toilet.

However, it seems that fans of 5SOS have absolutely no idea about what music journalism really is.

As a journalism student, I have learned that honesty is the MOST IMPORTANT ethical rule in being a journalist. I recently took a class on Media Ethics and my final paper was on the ethical issues in music journalism. As journalists, we are supposed to be as honest as we can in our writing, no matter the circumstances. It can be difficult in the music industry because of the backlash, but it is what we are trained to do. Remember Almost Famous, or do you only remember Penny Lane, the beautiful Band-Aid? The main character, William Miller, was faced with making a decision of being honest in an article or fabricating it to make the band seem a lot better than they really were. This movie wasn’t about the story of groupies or awesome rock bands, but more about the music journalism industry.

In this article for Rolling Stone, Patrick Doyle, the writer, followed the real track and gave an honest view of what the band 5 Seconds of Summer is like. There were many quotes from the band members, there was vivid description of what they were doing, and there was a lot of information. The article was written to show what the band members really are like, to show the “behind the scenes”. Was it a bit brutal? Yes, it was. At one point, the fans are only mentioned to describe how the band members hook up with them after shows. Fans are clearly upset about this statement, but here’s the thing: this is WHAT THE BAND SAID. Could the words have been twisted? Possibly. But that was still the only thing said about their fans. The band can blame the journalist for not writing about their fans, but did they even say anything in their interview about the fans in the first place? Maybe not. We may never know.

Journalists are supposed to write honestly when it comes to what they write about. Was the journalist honest in his description of the band, how they’re obsessed with alcohol and sex and supposedly “rock and roll?” You can bet on it that he was being honest, especially when he’s a writer for Rolling Stone. Looking at it from a journalist’s perspective, I thought the article was well-written. It was truthful, a bit crazy, and there was a lot of eye-rolling from my point of view. But I got it. The fans don’t necessarily see it because they may not know what journalism is actually about. But the fans should not be pointing fingers at the writer and the magazine for a bad article, when it was the band that provided the focal points.

Yes, the article was awful. But was it the journalist’s fault? No. You can blame the band who voluntarily gave that information in an interview, letting the journalist write honestly.

(You can read the Rolling Stone article about 5 Seconds of Summer here.)

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