CMA Fest may have ended a month ago, but as The Pamphleteer staff scoured local media for the perfect article to start our new series taking local journalism to task for its mediocrity, nothing raised our ridicule receptors like the Scene’s coverage of the crown jewel of Nashville tourism. Despite stiff competition, “CMA Fest Remains a Work in Progress” remains the worst piece we have read all summer thanks to its brazen neglect of research, lack of any discernible attempts at interviews, and abundance of Wikipedia trifles that may win trivia night at the newest local Mellow Mushroom ripoff, but should make the editors of our city’s stalwart alt-weekly deeply ashamed.
The piece by Lorie Liebig (could there be a better name for a carpetbagging local journalist?) posits that CMA Fest needs more representation for minorities and LGBTQ musicians. Curiously, she/her leaves out the “+,” betraying the raw bigotry lurking underneath her/she’s allyship. In a piece about glaring and politically motivated omissions, Liebig oddly devotes the bulk of of her prose to detailing a host of famous female and minority artists who have flourished in the country music world, undercutting her argument from the first paragraph.
Her most damning evidence of the event’s white cisheteropatriarchy? The 2015 Tomatogate controversy, in which radio consultant Keith Hill compared the ideal country music playlist to a salad that needs an abundance of male greens and a few pieces of the dainty fruit thrown in for a change of pace–a faux pas completely unrelated to the event. Thanks to Liebig’s work, long-time Nashvillians have finally heard about this scandal, a revelation almost outdone by her bombshell implication that Morgan Wallen may have said something racist once.
Is the article about the CMA Fest or is it just a way for Liebig to show off her poor knowledge of country music? It's unclear, but the lack of direction reminds one of the indecision many a Nashville woo-girl experiences when deciding on where to eat brunch after the protest for the fifth time that week. The result leaves the uninitiated reader unsure if–much less when–the acts she mentions are even playing the event. Such flaws are all the more obvious since, thanks to the lack of original reporting, the article’s structure resembles a social justice Mad Lib. With a quick click of “find and replace” it could be an equally outraged takedown of the corn industry, the waste management trade, or the implicit bias of the Keebler Elves.
Indicative of local journalism’s lack of quality control, Liebig stuffs the article full of vague adjectives, clunky second person, freewheeling use of punctuation, ugly passive voice, and laughable platitudes. Gems such as “but has the Country Music Association’s vision of an inclusive, fun escape for country fans truly caught up with the times?” so deeply lack meaning and insight they would kill Jim Ridley all over again.
After bungling even the most basic elements of style, Liebig ends with a call to arms: more black and brown people slaving away backstage in blue-collar roles: “Representation on the stage is meaningful, but without a lot more people of color behind the scenes, the framework for the whole industry remains warped.” Keep those burgeoning BIPOC industry hopefuls out of the limelight and in their proper place, Ms. Liebig. Nashville hasn’t seen this much accidental racism since Brad Paisley collabed with LL Cool J in 2013.