Dear L.A. Times: Waaaaassssup?


Get me rewrite! (Image courtesy of Olivander.)

Regular readers of C-Monster.net will know that I’ve spent the last couple of weeks directing evil thought waves at the L.A. Times. This is because roughly a fortnight ago, the paper where I held my first media job (features department assistant — the glamour!), had debuted an arts and culture blog called Culture Monster, which, needless to say, hits a bit close to home. After a couple of rather hysterical posts on the subject, I decided that the best course of action was to write the L.A. Times a very nice letter, asking them to reconsider their blog’s name. Crazy. I know. But I figured that even though I haven’t been part of the blogosphere since its paleolithic days (1998), I have managed to get linked to by one or two well-known arts sites over the course of my short and senseless existence. Besides if there’s one thing I can claim in all of this, it’s my name. Because how “monstrous” is a newspaper arts blog ever truly going to get?

Anyhow, after sending my note (to a battalion of arts editors, writers and even the reader representatives), all I heard for roughly a week was crickets. (Though the reader reps were kind enough to send me a mass-produced form letter thanking me for my thoughts.) Then I got a nice response back from a blog editor saying that my e-mail was being considered and that someone would get back to me with a decision. And ever since then all I’ve heard are more crickets. Last week, I reached a point where I was worn out enough to let the matter quietly drop. But then I figured it’d be far better to go out in a kamikaze blaze. Either that, or I was gonna have to challenge Christopher Knight to a Jell-o wrestling match. (I think I could take him.)

Anyhow, this is all a long way of saying that I’m posting my letter to the Times. (Read it after the jump.) Please forgive the first paragraph, where I talk about how important I am. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the art industry, it’s that being a gasbag usually gets you waaaaaay farther than humility.

* * *

Dear Colleagues:

For more than a year, I have produced an arts and architecture blog called C-Monster.net. It has been featured on arts blogs such as Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Art to Go and Time magazine’s Looking Around. It has also been linked to by respected, independent arts blogs such as Art Vent and Art Fag City and institutional blogs like the Walker Center’s Off Center. C-Monster has also received mentions in the print and online editions of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In addition, my blog has been linked to by popular non-arts sites such as Eyeteeth, Animal, Pink Tentacle and Coudal. This year, I was named a 2008 USC Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism fellow based on the work I’ve done on the blog.

I bring this up because this week the L.A. Times debuted Culture Monster, an arts and architecture blog whose name closely echoes my own. As a colleague in the media, I would like you to reconsider the title of your site.

There are three reasons why I am making this request:

  • Because it could be confusing. C-Monster and Culture Monster will line up next to each other on all those arts website blogrolls. When I started blogging, I purposely chose a distinct title, one that had nothing to do with any other art sites. I was very keen to avoid any sort of misidentification. My name and my site’s identity, however, are rendered less unique by the Times‘s choice in title.
  • Because it would be a cool thing to do. It’d be nice if the L.A. Times, an established media organization, recognized and supported the contributions of an independent, if unorthodox, colleague in the media. I’ve been working independently under the name C-Monster for more than a year. I’ve also maintained that identity on Flickr since 2005. (Mr. Pierce, the L.A. Times blog editor, is likely familiar with my work, since LAist, the site he once worked on, has regularly carried my images, including this piece that he wrote.) 
  • Because this whole thing, whether inadvertent or not, doesn’t make the L.A. Times look good. Bloggers, whether from established media outlets or working independently, form a daily online community where ideas are exchanged, criticized and celebrated. The art blogging community-like the art world-is a particularly small one, and at present, it’s buzzing with some unfortunate news. (See what Richard Lacayo at Time magazine had to say about it today.) I’m glad that the Times is entering the fray. It’s nice to have experienced voices online. But it would also be nice if it were done under an identity that didn’t so closely resemble my own.

This may not mean a lot to you, but it does to me. I look forward to your response.

10 comments

  1. Marshall

    The thing the Times needs to get is that Culture Monster is a good blog. Except for the name debacle, it’s off to a good start, and it’s worth reading. But the bitten name makes it a bad blog. Blogs are participatory media, and a blog that’s stealing my hombre’s name aint gonna get much respect, linkage or comments from its peers.

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  3. Regina Hackett

    It would be radically cool if they responded, but I’m guessing (hope I’m wrong) they’ll decline to do so. Thanks to Christopher Knight, they’re right when they think of themselves as tops, and tops in traditional journalism do not engage with those they perceive as bottoms.

    Traditional journalism is vertical and has no intention of embracing the horizontal, even though C-Monster is so much better than anything Culture Monster has come up with.

    Why don’t NYT critics ever respond? They’re not allowed to. It’s beneath their dignity anyway, and they set the tone. Really bad newspapers follow this lead. In Seattle, I could call out the art critic at the other daily every day (why bother?) and never hear from her. She’s not reading my blog or anybody else’s. Wouldn’t dream of it. Made of finer stuff. Isn’t it all just gossip? When newspapers such as hers go down, their writers will say it was the culture that lost its way. Regina Hackett

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  5. JL

    And all this time I thought you were the one biting Cookie Monster’s style.

    I’m Regina’s right that the Times won’t respond, but heck, consider yourself in good company: I seem to recall several years ago Josh Marshall got into a similar spat with the Washington Post after the newspaper named one of their political blogs “Talking Points” or something else very close to the name of his site. Not much more he could do about it then than you are now, but he ended up ok. Content is what matters.

  6. C-Monster

    LOL. cookie monster doesn’t blog about art. he’s all about cookies. though he is an inspiration. (and if the LAT blog was about cars or finance, i could care less… it’s the fact we’re covering the same territory under similar names that is making me twitchy.)

    and i agree, i will likely lose the war on this one. but it doesn’t mean i can’t be terrifically annoying… like a swamp mosquito at sundown.
    :-D

  7. meighan

    wow. i’d be really annoyed and confused and well just totally dismayed. it’s awesome that you are posting this. don’t lay down! keep up the good fight. it’s funny how things take on a life of their own on the web…peeps will support you.