Jim DeRogatis began his writing career in high school in 1982, completing an assignment by interviewing another young-blooming music thinker: the brightly burned out, young, and probably canon Lester Bangs. Twenty-eight years later DeRogatis is a widely and justifiably respected critic and journalist, co-hosting the nationally syndicated radio show Sound Opinions with Greg Kot, putting in over 15 years at the Chicago Sun-Times as their pop music critic, working for numerous respected magazines (and getting infamously fired from one), and writing five books, all in stalwart defense of Important Music with the DeRo style of intelligent, colorful frankspeak.
Meanwhile it's a drastic time for media and culture (along with, as always, everything else); closed bureaus, miniaturized departments, increased ad space and synergisms, the feverish rush to monetize any aspect of a confusing circulatory system, whole papers and magazines internet-only or gone completely. It says something about our present tumult moment that a veteran as credentialed as DeRogatis is jumping the printed galleon of the Sun-Times for academia and a well-stocked blog.
In May he will move on to Columbia College as a full-time writing teacher, and will continue his professional writing at Chicago Public Radio's Vocalo.org on June 1st (Sound Opinions isn't going anywhere, either).
"You know, the Sun-Times narrowly survived last fall, it was in bankruptcy" DeRogatis says. "If there wasn't a buyer, it was going to close. You have to start looking at 'well, where else would I go?' The Sun-Times obviously survived that, but this offer came and it was time to take it."
With Vocalo he plans to keep his same pace of output, less some of the shit shoveling required at a major newspaper. "The blogging is going to be pretty intensive," he says. "I'm going to be doing basically what I've been doing at the Sun-Times, minus the more trivial chasing-your-tail stories. As a blogger I'll have more freedom to give more insight and not worry about the daily newspaper restrictions, what that job entails."
"I'm really excited about developing something for the creative nonfiction program which would be a 'reading and new journalism' course," he says about his role as an educator of the young and the fireful. "Dive in to Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote." But on the general direction of journalism as an art in practice, he warns: "My basic theory about the way our beloved biz is going to shake out is I think there's going to be tweets, and there's going to be those great articles in the New Yorker about an 1856 expedition over the North Pole in a balloon and you say 'I dunno if I'm interested in this', and then 7,000 words later, because that first paragraph was so good and it sucked you in, you wish it hadn't ended. There's going to be great long-form journalism and there's going to be headlines. Those of us in dead-tree newspaper print, we're in the middle, and I don't think the middle is going to be there much longer."
We wish him the best of luck. DeRogatis is widely known as a kind person and open mentor for budding writers and artists. Two that work at this publication have received advice and encouragement from the man, and both are considering applying for enrollment at Columbia as I type. One of them is me.