Academic journal article Journalism History

Married to Rock and Roll: Jane Scott, Grandmother of Rock Journalism

Academic journal article Journalism History

Married to Rock and Roll: Jane Scott, Grandmother of Rock Journalism

Article excerpt

Jane Scott, a rock music critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1952 to 2002, was the first rock journalist at a daily U.S. newspaper; eventually the oldest rock critic on a daily paper; and finally, a woman in an area of journalism that was, and arguably still is, disproportionately crowded with young, male reporters. Over the fifty years, she became beloved by the world's biggest rock stars, as well as her readers, as she used luck, pluck, and a strong determination to succeed against the odds. Using interviews with Scott and those who knew and worked with her, along with newspaper and magazine articles, this is the story of a female pioneer who carved out a reportorial niche in something she came to love. "If you love what you are doing, you are blessed, " she said. "I consider what I have is love, and I'm just grateful that I was able to get it. I was just lucky. "

On a rainy February afternoon in Cleveland, Ohio, an elderly man stepped outside of his apartment complex to smoke a cigarette. "Don't let her bedazzle you, now," he said with a wink, to a young woman on her way to see his neighbor, Jane Scott. At eighty-six-years-old, Scott (known affectionately as the "World's Oldest Teenager")1 still has that effect on people. During her fifty-year career as a rock journalist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer-she was hired in 1952 and retired in 2002-she worked her charms on both the world's biggest rock stars and their fans (her reading public).

"Please excuse the mess," she warned on this day in 2005 as she opened her apartment door to reveal a living room cluttered with stacks of newspapers and magazines (many of which included articles written about her), bookcases lined from wall to wall with records, compact discs, and books, and countless rock and roll memorabilia collected over years on the job. On the wall hung an oversized, framed, black and white poster of the Beatles, the British musicians who in the late 1960s changed the course of rock and roll music in America as well as the course of her life and career.2

In the field of rock journalism, Scott is an anomaly in several respects. According to rock journalist and scholar Robert Christgau, "the locally beloved, nationally obscure" Scott was the first rock journalist at a daily newspaper.3 Writing into her early eighties, she also became the oldest rock music critic on a daily metropolitan newspaper.4 Finally, in addition to being the first, and then the oldest in her field, she was a woman in an area of journalism that was, and arguably still is, disproportionately crowded with young male reporters.

In 1990, Robert O. Wyatt and Geoffrey P. Hull surveyed 195 music journalists on newspapers and magazines and came up with a composite picture of the "average" music critic: a thirty-six-yearold, college-educated male with thirteen years of experience in journalism and more than nine years in music journalism.5 Furthermore, "[o]ne can get a quick sense of how men dominate the rock journalism establishment by glancing at who is listed as a senior writer or senior, associate, assistant, or contributing editor on the masmeads of major rock magazines like Rolling Stone, Spin, and Raygun," wrote Kembrew McLeod in Pop Music and the Press in 2002. "In 1999, the number of female editors or senior writers at Rolling Stone hovered around a whopping 15 percent, at Spin and Raygun, roughly 20 percent."6

Gregory Stricharchuk of the Wall Street Journal noted in a profile of Scott in 1987, "Unlike many of her peers, most of whom are males in their thirties, she never takes herself too seriously."7 She was, however, taken seriously-most of the time-by the people with whom she worked, the rock musicians she interviewed, and the fans for whom she wrote thousands of articles. During her career, several major newspapers and magazines ran articles about Scott, including Rolling Stone and the Wall Street Journal, but only when she retired in 2002 did the media report extensively on her career. …

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