It was all over music news’ headlines a month ago: Lil Wayne pleaded guilty to second-degree gun possession charges and now faces up to a year in prison.
I came across the story on Rollingstone.com, and decided to go to a few sources to compare their accounts. What I found was interesting; two music magazines, though directed to similar audiences, had very different takes on reporting.
Rolling Stone’s article highlighted the seriousness of the case. They detailed the arrest charges as well as previous charges in which he pleaded not guilty. Their story pointed out that he was found “holding 105 grams of marijuana, 29 grams of cocaine, 41 grams of ecstasy, drug paraphernalia and a handgun.” They also reminded readers that Wayne is the second rapper emprisoned for illegal handgun possession this year, after T.I.’s arrest in March. They even went into specifics about the police search that unearthed the gun: “cops searched Wayne’s tour bus after they detected the aroma of marijuana following his show at the Beacon Theatre. When police approached the bus, Wayne allegedly tossed a Louis Vuitton bag with the gun inside.”
Spin.com, on the other hand, disappointed me with their version of events. They got the basic story correct — Wayne had a gun, pleaded guilty and was sentenced. However, their style of reporting sounded much more lighthearted, even sympathetic at times. One Spin employee was even quoted: “Never has such a gifted MC been more motivated and distracted, piercing and random, clear-eyed and stoned into total bewildering oblivion. Who can’t relate?” Their article focused on superficial facts like what Wayne was wearing to the court hearing (“A solemn Wayne, 27, arrived to for the hearing dressed casually in black jeans, a gray coat, white T-shirt, and blue Converse Chucks”) and his success (“Wayne is currently No. 1 on the pop charts…The position is familiar to the rapper: on the success of 2008’s Tha Carter III, Wayne shot from underground prodigy to chart-topping pop star. The album has sold over three million copies”). The story barely even mentions his drug possession or previous gun charges.
Has Spin let go of its good reporters, or are they more interested in the fluffier aspects of the music industry than Rolling Stone? How can two competing magazines give such a varied account of a single event?
**For another style of journalism covering this story, check out MTV’s video coverage of the court hearing by clicking on Lil Wayne’s mug shot above.