Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hard to pardon

While browsing through the Web site of my hometown newspaper, I stumbled across a headline that alerted me to the fact that "Rapper Willie D charged with iPhone scam."

So no doubt, I had no choice but to click on the link. However, more interesting than the details of the actual story was the correction slapped across the top:

Correction (March 16): A story Friday in the City/State section about the arrest of William James Dennis should have been clearer about the topics covered by his rap group, the Geto Boys. The story said much of the group’s music touched on topics such as necrophilia or rape. The group’s music more often contained lyrics about violence.
Sheesh. I can only assume the unfortunate reporter assigned to write the story got the "necrophilia" and "rape" tidbits from the Geto Boys' wikipedia entry. As a lifelong fan of the Geto Boys, particularly Scarface, I can't even begin to figure out which song makes references to necrophilia in anything other than an off-handed manner.

But more than that, that embarrassing correction shows the importance of pushing for more diversity in newsrooms - and not necessarily diversity in the all-too often generic sense of skin color and ethnicity. Seeking out a diversity of experiences should also be a priority for any newspaper recruiter - assuming those positions still exist in this struggling economy.

Because having someone in the newsroom who had actually listened to - or heard of - a Geto Boys album, especially in Houston, would have been extremely helpful in a deadline crunch.

Maybe this seems silly. Maybe newspapers might argue that there's no value in catering to minor interests. And maybe that's true on some level. But I'm living, breathing testimony to the importance of having someone, anyone, who knows something about hip-hop beyond Snoop and 50 Cent.

Last year, in one of my first assignments for my newspaper, I had to cover an assignment about a kid who was arrested for loudly and obnoxiously reciting the lyrics to Lil' Boosie's "Touch Down to Cause Hell" while walking down the street. Eventually, The Smoking Gun even picked up the story and it generated a little Internet buzz before fading into the abyss that is my archive.

But best believe, no one had heard of Lil' Boosie in my newsroom before that kid got silly in front of a cop. In much the way that I'm sure very few folks in the Houston Chronicle's news department had a clue that Willie D was one of the men rapping on the song that became synonymous with cult classic Office Space.

And I can't even begin to understand how this happened at a newspaper in Houston. Wouldn't the music critic - assuming there is one there following their recent round of layoffs - have been around to check the veracity of that wikipedia entry?

Anyway, sad to see that times are so rough for Willie D that he's allegedly resorted to running a wire fraud scheme. I think it's better if I remember the "Clean Up Man" - who actually made a very overt pass at an ex-girlfriend of mine - from better days:

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