Eye Gets an Insider's Vu on MTV News
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Eye Gets an Insider’s Vu on MTV News

Photo of an Eye Weekly box outside of MTV’s headquarters by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.

On Tuesday, Eye published “The new NewMusic?”, a fawning article about how MTV, and specifically MTV News, embodies all that was once great but is no longer about MuchMusic and The NewMusic. It’s been updated a bit since then, but Google caught it in its original form, and you should go read it right now here [UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 22, 2009: Google’s cached version of the article is now up to date, so you’ll have to pretend like the last sentence in the fourth paragraph, in parentheses, isn’t there—because it wasn’t originally.] Seriously, go. We have a surprise for when you get back.

Okay, you’re back. Fawning’s a fair word, right? While the argument’s been made before (here and elsewhere) that MuchMusic’s in the dumps and MTV’s pretty great, Eye‘s enthusiastic article, written by Liem Vu, is extraordinarily favourable to MTV, and MTV News in particular. There are paragraphs like this one:

Instead of being a personality driven hodgepodge of sound bites and overly flashy packaging, MTV News took on The NewMusic’s mantle of being the indie fan’s one stop alt-shop for news, music clips and long-form interviews with non-Top 40 artists like Fucked Up, Ben Kweller, Land of Talk, Women, St. Vincent and Grizzly Bear (before they actually became a Top 40 band this year).

The whole thousand-word article is like that: It interviews MTV News host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, letting her talk about how great MTV News is and describing her iPod’s “eclectic mix of Led Zeppelin, MGMT and Britney Spears.” It quotes MTV News producer Chad Barclay, who praises MTV News‘ new format (“Last Monday, MTV News unveiled its new, 12-minute commercial-free format….According to [Barclay], the new format will take ‘[The NewMusic] model and abbreviate it in a way where you [wouldn’t] lose the heart and soul of the artist.'”) It talks to Supervising Producer Alex Sopinka, who defends the channel and show’s integrity (“‘When I was [at MuchMusic], the whole contention was that if you wanted to play something, if you wanted to talk about a band or put a video on, it had to be popular. That’s bullshit, I mean, how are you suppose to break bands? You’re supposed to be the one that’s telling people what’s cool and what’s coming up, not be the one following the trends.'”) The article’s last paragraph is this: “But with MTV Live’s penchant for booking live performances from indie acts like Passion Pit, The Most Serene Republic and more recently, Anjulie, MTV Canada may very well be heading towards the direction of becoming the nation’s new music station.”
Which in spite of its fawning-ness over MTV, MTV News, and MTV Live, would all still be fine—were it not for the fact that “The New NewMusic?” was written by someone who works, right now, at MTV on MTV News and MTV Live. Yep: Liem Vu is an intern at MTV, specifically at MTV News and MTV Live. He was as much at the time the article was pitched to Eye, he was when he was conducting interviews, he was when he was writing it, and he still was when it was published. He “is currently serving his internship here at MTV News/Live,” a producer there confirmed with us yesterday. The Eye article, when published, made no mention or suggestion whatsoever of Vu’s directly, almost comically, conflicting interests.
What the heck?
According to Eye‘s online editor, Stuart Berman, Vu’s internship at MTV was known when the article was first pitched, though Berman thought that by then it had finished. After we emailed Berman, he updated Vu’s article to “make the relationship explicit,” as he told us. Its current version on Eye‘s site now carries a note at the end of an early paragraph: “Full disclosure: I am an unpaid summer intern at the station.” (When it was first added, it left out “unpaid.”) Around that time, Vu’s publicly viewable Facebook profile picture changed so it was no longer a photo of MTV Live host Daryn Jones on set and on camera, holding up a copy of Eye.
Berman wrote, in his email back to Torontoist:

I was, of course, aware that Liem had served as an intern at MTV, and that he had access to the inner workings there. This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had a story written for us by someone who’s on intimate terms with the subject they’re writing about, and given that we’ve been covering the music-television beat fairly regularly over the past year (with features on MuchMusic and Aux.tv), Liem’s story about the changes at MTV News felt like a worthy addition to this conversation.

A reporter writing a seemingly objective news article about how much a place they intern at rules is pretty damned “intimate.” But we still really like Eye (and MTV, for that matter), and the paper, at least, can make it up to us by letting one of Torontoist’s contributors write a thousand-word, third-person article for them about how totally great Torontoist is.