Column: Conflict of interest: Drew32, rapper and best friend, comes to Mizzou
Sep. 13, 2011
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Detroit rapper and producer Drew32 came to Missouri on Friday, Sept. 2, to perform at the Missouri Muzic Fest.
Drew32, known to friends and family as Andrew Parks, has been my best friend since our freshman year of high school in 2006.
Oddly enough, the show that brought him 700 miles from Detroit just so happened to be about three miles from MU, providing for a nice little cliché reunion.
We used to talk about how I would be writing about him in Rolling Stone one day — that he’d be a famous rapper, and I’d be a famous writer.
A few years later, with him doing his thing musically and me studying at the J school, it looked as if this, with enough optimism, was something that we could actually do, maybe.
Until journalism decided to rain on everyone’s parade.
Thanks to a little something called conflict of interest, it wouldn’t be professional for me to cover my best friend, even if I claimed I could be unbiased, because readers might doubt that I’m being honest about the performance.
We played on the same basketball team during high school, we’ve traveled together and I’ve promoted his music on my personal blog, so I get where that perception comes from. But is that right there enough to completely inhibit my ability to write a story that is fair and honest?
After weighing it over in my mind enough to come up with about 600 words worth of content, I’ve decided that it’s not.
Basically, in exchange for a little objectivity, this hypothetical story about Drew32’s performance at the Missouri Muzic Fest would only have to give up a few minor elements:
-A comprehensive knowledge and understanding of Drew’s personal background, going back to 2004.
-Coverage of his trip to Columbia, his sound checks, rehearsals and other performances during the weekend.
-Knowledge of Drew’s entire musical background, including how he’s performed in Greece, in Texas at SXSW, in Utah at the Sundance Film Festival and recently collaborated with Royce da 5’9”, who is now receiving generous radio play as the non-Eminem half of Bad Meets Evil.
Considering these things, this trade-off is about as irrational as this year’s 94 percent increase in the price of a Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ ticket.
Sure, Drew and I are friends, and really good ones at that, but when it comes to covering a concert for an event/profile piece, does a potential conflict of interest really matter that much?
If I were best friends with Barack Obama and I was writing about the American Jobs Act, or if I was Tyler, the Creator writing about Bruno Mars’ performance at the VMAs, I would understand the issue.
But in this case, I can’t bring myself to believe that a perceived conflict of interest completely ruins my ability to pursue truthful, verified, objective journalism.
According to journalistic standards of objectivity, my profile of Drew would be about as authentic as your roommate in front of your parents on family weekend (what a nice young man your roommate is, Johnny!).
But for the reporter with no personal connections to Drew, the piece would be as authentic as possible, but with no more depth or color than the piece of newspaper it was printed on.
Most interviews would get no more information than what I could recite from memory, or at least any more than content than what Drew has been telling reporters during all the interviews and profiles I’ve seen him do over the past few years.
Journalism is obviously a professional’s profession, and objectivity is a pretty big deal to say the least. But another big part of objectivity is being transparent in how you gather your information and how you go about doing a story.
Just now, I spent 600 words explaining that Drew was my best friend. I could’ve easily lied and written an in-depth profile about his music and his performance for the Arts section, but I didn’t.
If objectivity is something that’s going to put food on my plate one day, I guess it’s worth tucking my tail between my legs and watching someone else write the story.
But when the first glimpse of our mutual fame revealed itself on the big stage over Labor Day weekend, there was no way I was going to leave my pen in my pocket.
Some more knowledgeable journalism higher-up might make me eat my words on this one someday, but I know I’ll be eating my pride along with the food my objective journalism career will end up paying for. So while dorm food is still relevant to my life, I’m willing to take that chance.