By Avery Luke
On October 15, 2020, SPJ DePaul hosted a live Q&A with acclaimed music journalist Jim DeRogatis. The session covered a variety of topics ranging from DeRogatis’s book, “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly,” to launching a career in journalism, as well as the unique circumstances journalists face in modern-day reporting.
President Joanna Talabani, who moderated the event, launched the Q&A with a discussion about DeRogatis’s work in breaking the R. Kelly scandal. DeRogatis mentioned the anonymous fax detailing R. Kelly’s “problem with young girls” which he received nearly two decades ago, and how the fax lead to an unexpected saga of reporting on his contraversial findings. DeRogatis emphasized that working and publishing the story took a fair amount of persistence. He noted the importance of the “Me Too” movement, and posed how a similar story might break today.
“I think it has been easier for women to make their stories heard by journalists, but it is no easier to get those stories into print,” said DeRogatis. “This is an issue that’s happening, and it’s continuing to happen.”
Before his work involving R. Kelly, DeRogatis launched his career with a beat in music journalism. For twenty-seven years, he has co-hosted the weekly pop-music talk show “Sound Opinions” with Greg Kot, and you can find more his work in the Chicago Sun-Times, among other publications. The world of music criticism has undoubtedly experienced ebbs and flows since the inception of DeRogatis’s career in the nineties. When asked if the the absence of live shows in COVID-19 has made it more difficult to write about music, DeRogatis insists that it does not.
“There’s a level of understanding you only reach about an artist when you see them live, but we have the records,” said DeRogatis. “When you are a [popular music critic], it’s about the recordings anyway.”
For aspiring music journalists, DeRogatis concluded the Q&A by emphasizing the importance of practice, persistence, and figuring out where your talent is.
“You will develop a voice through sheer trial and error, and making a mess on the page, and learning and persisting,” said DeRogatis. “We hope that as with good music, stuff that is really great eventually catches ears and eyes.”