It might be news, but it's not a story

Plus: Bob Mould plays for Marlboro Miles; contrary to popular e-spam, Darren does not have liver disease.

Published September 24, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

First, there's news: facts and figures from legislative forums, press releases, weather satellites and courtroom benches. Then there are stories, those attention-grabbing tales of divergence more entertaining than useful that often, though not always, tell of bizarre or violent death, odd behavior and unusual sexual practices.

Noble intentions be damned, anyone who's snored through the latest report on city-council referendums knows that it's the stories that capture our highly valued attention. Hence Monica, or that brand-spanking-new, 24-year-old (at least) political situation in East Timor: "Oh, they're killing people in shocking ways there? Now we care! Banner headline! Big, bold type!"

But every so often one stumbles across a story thicker than fluff, more solid than hype, more permanent than the latest headlines -- and entertaining at the same time. What rare and rapturous bliss to us story-starved fools!

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Missoula Independent, Sept. 16-22

"It's Not Easy Being Green" by Sarah Schmid

If the GOP hadn't abandoned environmental preservation in favor of corporate autonomy, there would be nothing interesting about Martha Marks, president of Republicans for Environmental Protection. But she is not the norm among her right-wing ilk. Hence this no-frills profile, illustrating as clearly as any legislative act, and with more panache, that Republicans as a whole favor money in their coffers over trees.

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Cleveland Free Times, Sept. 22-28

"Gagged" by Laura DeMarco

The Ohio chapter of Feminists for Life of America was barred from having a booth at this year's Lilith Fair. So the executive director and two members purchased tickets and stood in front of the festival's pro-choice booths wearing gags, which made explaining their stance to passersby challenging, to say the least. Journalist Laura DeMarco argues that the fair's lack of tolerance for the pro-lifers point of view is in keeping with that of the women's movement as a whole -- and, indeed, representatives from several high-profile feminist organizations she talks to are quick to support Lilith's snub. From the plight of pro-life feminists, DeMarco delves into a larger discussion of hypocrisy and classism in the women's movement -- nothing new being said here, but they're points apparently in need of reiteration.

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Suck, Sept. 21

IPO'd by Greg Knauss

The story that's been reported by the press for the past several years now has been that IPO equals instant wealth to those lucky enough to have stock options. The news is that this is not indeed the norm. For every, there are dozens of companies that don't fare well on the market. Greg Knauss' sharp storytelling helps make this disappointing news more palatable.

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S.F. Weekly, Sept. 22-28

"Pedaling the Vegan Message" by Joel P. Engardio

Vegan chef (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) Stefan Lynch is hoping his new lunchtime catering business will take off in San Francisco, especially among the prosperous. "I'm marketing to people who may wear a suit and tie, but deep down want to put on a dashiki and live consciously, or at least care about what they eat and enjoy good food that's good for them," Lynch tells Joel P. Engardio, whose analysis-free reporting style seems less journalism than free PR. I'm pleased as punch that the wealthy are willing to pay $20 to eat a cruelty-free, healthy and holier-than-thou lunch. What better way to illustrate these altruistic do-gooders' real intentions?

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The Stranger, Sept. 23-29

"The Changeling" by Stacey Levine

Earlier this month, 38-year-old Ara Tripp climbed a tower along Seattle's I-5, bared her breasts while playing air guitar and did some carnival-style fire-breathing. This act, she says, expressed her "deep opposition to the control of women in this culture." This creative campaigner for women's rights used to be a man. In her nuanced profile of Tripp, Stacey Levine touches on many of the complicated issues this stunt raises: Can a former man truly know what it means to be female? Where does one draw the line between needing attention and social protest? The question running through my brain was, Does being raised a man better prepare you to take a bold and daring stand, no matter how bizarre, than being raised a woman?

Seattle Weekly, Sept. 23-29


The Seattle Weekly's package on the century-long connection between music and violence is a fun, if skeletal, romp through music history -- from ragtime to "psycho-country" and the ongoing scapegoating of music for violent teen behavior. If nothing else, it would have benefited from a more coherent thesis: For example, why are violent themes such a draw for musicians? Why is the public so willing to accept shallow explanations -- "the music made me do it" -- for criminal behavior?

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Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages, Sept. 22-28

"You're Not Invited" by Peter Scholtes

A new trend in rock 'n' roll is the rise of private, corporate-sponsored shows featuring big name artists. Peter Scholtes opens his article with the bizarre spectacle of ex-punk Bob Mould playing a concert paid for by attendees who collect Marlboro Miles. The phenomenon of rock stars big and small playing for private audiences has quietly become commonplace.

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Willamette Week, Sept. 22-28

"Publish or Perish" by Susan Wickstrom

In this bland, predictable interview, Susan Wickstrom talks to Ariel Gore, creator of the popular self-published zine HipMama. It's true that occasionally the writer/publisher of a zine gets discovered, gets book deals and gets lucrative national freelance assignments. But more often, the zine sucks and nobody reads it. Sobering words for the zine-makers currently gathered in Portland, Ore., for the Hot House 1999 conference -- but ones that seem to elude our chipper reporter. The real story is right under her nose: Most of the successful zines she mentions -- HipMama, Bust,, Rockrgrl -- are for women apparently fed up with the makeup-and-orgasms content offered by mainstream women's glossies.

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In Pittsburgh Weekly, Sept. 22-28

"There's a sucker forwarding every minute" by Marty Levine

Most likely, you've gotten the e-mail several times now -- the one that tells the tragic story of a promising high school student struck down by liver disease. Save Darren's life, it begs! Don't delete! In this amusing story, Marty Levine tracks down the real-life Darren, who'd be perfectly fine if the phone calls, concerned e-mails and other complications stemming from this phony, unstoppable spam would end.

By Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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