Three Long Reads Worth Scrolling Through

Because we all need something to aspire to/obsess over/refute publicly, and because I wanted a better way to catalog all the fantastic/interesting/confounding pieces I come across on a daily basis…

#1: Love him or hate him, R. Kelly sexual abuse lawsuits
This Village Voice interview with the Chicago Sun-Times reporter who broke the story about sexual allegations against the R&B singer R. Kelly back in the early 2000s is a must-read for anyone who has ever taken a hard look at music journalism or has a vague interest in the artist’s hazy past.

The reporter, Jim DeRogatis, comes on quite strong in the interview, but it’s obviously after years of covering a story that he felt didn’t get a lot of play and has now largely been downplayed by a combination of time and/or indifference.

I’d have to agree. Most people my age (read: early to mid 20s) are vaguely aware that the singer “likes them young” and may or may not have raped a girl involving the usage of urine. What DeRogatis is trying to point to in the interview is how the public and the media seemingly have short-term memories when it comes to an artist who had dozens of allegations stacked against him. He also details the interesting backstory about how he pieced together the story from anonymous videotapes, tips, and protected court documents.

Now, we’re talking about an artist whose sexually-explicit lyrics really came to define the current era of R&B (and to a larger degree, overall pop) music today and is still cited by many as an inspiration and role model. He’s also a pretty relevant artist, collaborating most recently with Lady Gaga.

My thanks to the folks who shared this on Facebook. The Village Voice isn’t an outlet I normally check, but I’m glad to have read this one because it’s an interesting look at a segment of journalism that routinely gets shoeboxed by reviews and opinions. Which takes me to my next recommended read…

#2: MMA Extreme Weight Loss & Rise in Popularity
This is an older read that I clicked on a few weeks back while perusing IRE’s Extra, Extra blog (I highly recommend!), which features investigative or watchdog pieces in print, tv, and online form.

The (Newark) Star-Ledger looked into mixed martial arts, commonly called MMA, which has blown up in recent years and is now carried on several cable channels.

I’m a big believer that any industry, especially the sports industry or in this case, the highly-specialized sub-industry of cage fighting, is ripe for deeper looks such as this one.

One story looks at the extreme measures cage fighters take in the hours leading up to a weigh-in. In that way, it’s very similar to pieces done in the past about boxing weigh-ins and other questionable sports practices. The possibility of traumatic brain injuries from MMA is also similar to concerns in football, hockey, and any other contact sport.

What this series has going for it is a strong narrative thread that takes you inside the fighter’s bath tub as he covers himself in acetone to shed pounds within hours and a look at the sport’s humble beginnings and how it has struggled for greater widespread appeal and acceptance.

New York has gone so far as to ban the sport, locking itself out of an industry that’s growing and making nearby New Jersey a go-to venue.

Speaking of New Jersey…

#3 A Tale of Camden, NJ
I ran across this story on my Twitter feed and thought it was a great look into one of America’s most fabled, troubled “inner cities”: Camden, New Jersey.

One day I will figure out exactly what Matt Taibbi’s beat is and how he gets to write about everything interesting from foreclosures to the military to Camden. Until then, I will continue to read his work in Rolling Stone, albeit, slowly (I’ll be the first to admit it takes a fair amount of time and effort for me to get through his stories, but they’re always worth it).

Camden was a place I had heard about as just being a place one doesn’t want to go unless one wants some kind of physical and/or emotional harm to befall one. And that when I was in high school growing up in NYC, across state borders and hours of driving away. Warnings about Camden, NJ, were to be taken seriously.

At a time when Detroit has become the default battered city, Taibbi takes a look at a place that has long had its detractors and has been on a precipitous decline. What’s particularly interesting is how this city stacks up to its neighbors in NJ, both economically and racially.

It’s also an interesting look at exactly what happens when a city overtakes a police department and the challenges governments face in rebuilding.