Out of pocket

When keeping it real goes wrong

Skate magazines these days catch a lot of flack from world-weary oldsters on the internet who view modern interviews in the long shadow of the mid-90s rags, in which certain pro skaters vowed to, for instance, infect every other pro skater they could with the HIV virus. Or simply murder one another. What can I say, it was a different time.

What’s funny, in a not-so-funny way, is that as social standards continue their gentle downward slide, interviews in skateboard magazines have generally gotten less interesting*. Now, there are any number of explanations for this. For one thing, there’s more skateboarders in general, and thanks to the law of averages and the forum provided by the likes of ESPN and the Dew, skateboarding has attracted a greater number of less-interesting individuals than it used to.

Then there’s the general corporatization of the skateboard industry, another slow process, since a lot of reputable corporations are way too uptight when it comes to the type of lackadaisical shipping schedules and haphazard bookkeeping practices that fly at skateboard outfits (shoutout to Ipath). Magazines were one of the first juicy morsels of the industry gobbled up by corporate concerns, since the magazine business is a known commodity. Cue ads for the Army and Ford Trucks, font size limits for the word “fuck,” and the sudden appearance of kiddie graphics over top of previous nudity (from Larry Flynt, of all people).

So yeah, the Time Warners of the world definitely bear some blame for the watering-down of skate magazine content. But what’s becoming more and more clear is that skateboard magazines themselves seem to be doing their damndest to sanitize their own shit.

About a year ago there was that industry-wide panties-bunching over blank boards. You may remember how they destroyed skateboarding forevermore and took food from the mouth of Andrew Reynolds’ baby. Anyway, the IASC printed up a little pamphlet for the winter ASR that featured a load of prominent pros going off on blank decks and espousing the virtues of branded hardgoods concerns, real warm and fuzzy stuff. Part of the deal was that said pros posed for a big group photo in some LA ditch… and around the same time, TWS ran the same photos under the guise of “a bunch of pros getting together for no reason except just to skate, man.” Slap messageboard maven Neal Boyd broke it down nicely here. Kind of slimy altogether.

There’s loads of other political stuff that goes on, photoshopping of shoes and clothing logos of course, and during his recent debate with Jamie Thomas, Clyde Singleton alleged that the Zero chief is notified whenever his name or likeness appears in any magazine, and presumably he gets the final sign-off on it. Which may or may not be true.

Apparently about four months ago Arto spoke with Big Brother/Vice alum Chris Nieratko (who knows from journalism, at least to some degree) for what was, by all accounts, a pretty straightforward interview: what have you been up to, what’s up with injuries, what went on with the big sponsor changes, and the now apparently obligatory questions about his mobile sauna, which I find a total snoozer. But after hanging up the phone, Arto apparently came down with the old 120-day itch and called up the boys at TSM, ordering them to pull the interview… which apparently they did.

Contrary to what a lot of people have said, I don’t have a real hard time seeing why Burton suits would want this axed: Arto said in no uncertain terms how difficult it was to leave Flip, sort of agreed when Nieratko made fund of Burton and Gravis, and tugged back the curtain on how dead serious Burton is about their riders’ contractual obligations. With all the work the company does to promote Jake Burton as this “jus’ folks” granola-munching dude who’d rather be hiking the backcountry than sit on a conference call, it’s not a good look. And Arto of all people should have known better.

The problem of course is Nieratko. He dipped out of the skate magazine scene when Big Brother was still drawing breath and just recently checked back in, which shows in the way he interviews people and is probably one of the reasons why he’s still one of the best dudes doing this kind of thing. He calls bullshit on stuff—i.e. the sad state of Gravis’s past footwear designs—and probably used his silver-tongued powers to lull Arto into forgetting his Burton loyalty oaths.

The mistake Nieratko made was assuming that his editors at TSM would have his back on the whole deal. With Gravis just rolling out and Alien gearing up for a video release, Burton probably has got a good amount invested in TSM real estate, and at a time when belts are tightening at magazines in general and skate magazines in particular, I’m sure the threat to pull that dough probably was heard loud and clear. You have to wonder though, if magazines keep pulling this type of shit and running interviews bland as a late-period 411 (RIP), who’s even going to read them anymore.

*There are exceptions. Tony Tave’s interview in Thrasher last year, when he was fucked up on salvia, was pretty entertaining, for instance.

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7 Responses to “Out of pocket”

  1. JB Says:

    The saddest part of the TSM mag pulling the interview is just as you said it…it started out as corporate rebellion. I know first hand TSM made Zitzer stop blogging for an AOL affiliated website because they were bitter about their former Time Warner overlords.

    As with all things media related it’s not so much the truth you hear these days but whose version of the Truth. In this case it’s sad for Nieratko, Sad for Arto, sad for Burton and most of all sad for TSM. Ad dollars win again and again. One questions: since we can’t classify this as selling it out should it go under “buying in”?

  2. Kepner Says:

    Don’t forget about Dave Carnie. He’s a pretty good interviewer, though not as controversial as Nieratko. While his questions usually go off on a tangent, his interviews are still ones I look for in TSM. I’ll usually read them regardless of the skater questioned or the subject covered.

    I enjoyed your post, thanks.

  3. SB Says:

    You’d think with the amount of money in skateboarding that these magazines could find other advertisers that would want to advertise regardless. Maybe with the prices going up on everything they’re (both the companies and magazines) clamoring like the rest of America?

  4. pilot light Says:

    Well remember that it’s probably not just ad money, it’s access… like maybe Gravis would opt to bring a TWS photog along on their trip to China instead of a TSM guy, and shop Alien/Habitat photos elsewhere, etc.

  5. Watson Says:

    Big ups to Nieratko putting them on blast though. That’s what I like to see.

    I will still read anything Carnie writes regardless of how banal the subject matter is.

  6. Someone Says:

    Hey you gotta remember that not all skaters are Millionaire Shecklers… dude wants some financial safety whats wrong with that? the guy’s gotta eat, even in 4 years from now… an injury can make the whole “skate world” forget who you are and what you did.

  7. Fuck You! Says:

    Dear fucker, you are an asshole!

    You don’t know nothing about skateboarding and you don’t know nothing about Arto! Just wait and see. AWS film will blow the rest of your brains out! You are just fucking jealous of that you can’t skate or make money by what you love to do most.

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