Published on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 07:38
Jim DeRogatis, the music critic, columnist & blogger for the Chicago Sun-Times, tendered his resignation from the newspaper yesterday, effective immediately. "DeRo" had been with the Chicago newspaper since 1992, with the exception of a three year break in the mid 90's when he took a brief job as an Editor at Rolling Stone magazine and focused on his book writing career. His 15 years at the Sun-Times has seemingly ended this week.
If there is anything Jim DeRogatis loves more than rock & roll, it is writing. DeRo has authored seven books with an eighth book finished and coming out later this year. In addition to the Sun-Times and Rolling Stone, he has written for the magazines: Spin, Creem, Guitar World, Modern Drummer, Penthouse, and GQ.
His writing for the Sun-Times often elicited heated responses from readers. DeRo would not stick to only reviewing artist releases and shows he liked. He would often ferociously rip apart acts he did not care for, including many fan favorites. It is not only readers that his scathing reviews have elicited heated responses from. A particularly harsh review of a Ryan Adams concert appearance brought a nasty voice mail response from Adams himself. (That recording can be heard HERE
True fans, and DeRogatis himself, would not call those kinds of columns of his "negative," but instead brutally honest. That is not his only writing style, though. Many of his columns are quite positive. This is especially true when commenting on smaller independent artists and local Chicago artists (with the exception of Liz Phair, who he continues to be pretty rough on, and R. Kelly, for good reason). His musical tastes tend to lean toward indie/punk/artsy artists, although he has been known to gush over artists such as Wilco, AC/DC, and even the Black Eyed Peas.
His columns often went beyond simple reviews and into harder journalism. It was Jim DeRogatis who broke open the R. Kelly child pornography case, after he had been given a videotape in 2002 allegedly showing the R&B star doing things no human should do to another, let alone a minor. DeRo gave that tape to police, who started charges against Kelly. He became a key witness in that trial, although he refused to give any testimony. (Largely due to his not wanting to break the journalistic code of revealing sources and also because R. Kelly's lawyers were applying pressure on DeRo, claiming he should be charged with child pornography for possessing that videotape and showing it to others.) After numerous delays, R. Kelly was acquitted of the charges in 2008, as the defense was able to cast enough doubt about just who was actually in that video.
Through his columns, he has also been a valiant fighter against the monopolistic actions of Ticketmaster, from their gouging of fees to consumers, to their treatment of artists, to their proposed merger with Live Nation.
In addition to being a voracious fan of rock & roll, DeRogatis is also a musician. On his own website
, he joking says that he is not a musician, but he is a drummer. He currently drums for the Chicago band, Vortis
, who have released three independent albums already. He has also played drums in Chicago bands Airlines, Speed the Plough, the Love Pushers, the Mandrakes, the Wahinis, and the Ex-Lion Tamers.
Along with his books, Jim DeRogatis is better known nationwide as the co-host of Chicago Public Radio's "Sound Opinions" -- the self-described "World's only Rock and Roll talk show." The radio show, co-hosted with the Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot, is a discussion of all things rock -- from reviews, to interviews, to in-studio performances, to in-depth looks at certain aspects of music & its industry. "Sound Opinions" first started as a segment on the late Eddie Schwartz's radio show on AM 1000 in 1993. It was DeRogatis and Chicago Reader music critic Bill Wyman back then. It became such an interesting segment, that it was given its own weekend spot on the station. About a year later, it moved to Q101, but ended less than a year after that when DeRo took the Rolling Stone Editor job. When DeRo returned to Chicago, so did "Sound Opinions," but this time on WXRT and with Greg Kot replacing Bill Wyman. In December of 2005, DeRogatis & Kot made the stunning announcement that they were taking to show to Chicago Public Radio's WBEZ. Soon after, the show was syndicated to stations nationwide, with the show now heard on over 70 radio stations each week. He will continue to be part of his radio show, despite the changes going on in other areas of his work life.
As stunning as the announcement of leaving WXRT was, yesterday's announcement about his exit from the Sun-Times, was much more stunning. It is a huge loss for the newspaper -- a hole that probably will not be filled. The Sun-Times' loss is a big gain for two other organizations, however...
Beginning with the fall semester, Jim DeRogatis will become a full-time faculty member with Columbia College Chicago's Department of English. For the past two semesters, he has been teaching the course "Reviewing the Arts in the English department's professional writing program. While continuing to teach that course, he will be helping to create an advanced version of it, which will be part of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences' new college-wide honors program.
The other new venture for the rock writer begins on June 1st, as Jim DeRogatis will now be blogging a few times a week for Chicago Public Radio's Vocalo.org website. His new online music column will be called "PopNStuff." He will cover much of the same territory he did at the Sun-Times, with a special emphasis on the Chicago music scene, and without many of the subjects he was forced to write about by various Sun-Times editors. He now joins a pair of ex-Sun-Times' employees. Media columnist Robert Feder, who was the first to join Vocalo.org as a contributor, and who also was first to break the story of DeRo's exit from the Sun-Times
, and architecture reporter Ley Bey, are already part of the Vocalo.org family, as is food reporter Steve "Hungry Hound" Dolinsky and author Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This is the biggest coup for the fledgling blogsite since they first hired Robert Feder last year.
In an interview done earlier this month for the website PopMatters.com, Jim DeRogatis dropped a hint about his unhappiness with writing for a newspaper, being forced to write about subjects he'd rather not. In that interview
, he said, "What wears on me are the soul sapping experiences of being a critic at a daily newspaper. Someone says "This is news" so you have to cover it. It might be something like Lollapalooza, which to me has very little artistic merit. Whereas Pitchfork never fails to excite and surprise and thrill... If I have to review Britney Spears at United Center, I'm pretty sure it's gonna suck."
He now has the freedom to express himself in anyway he sees fit on "PopNStuff," along with teaching others how to do so at Columbia College.
For a person known to truly enjoy hard-driving, angst-ridden, angry punk songs, don't be surprised if you find Jim DeRogatis joyfully singing a bright, happy pop song to himself this summer. His life is just working out that way right now.