In mid December of last year Deadpoint Magazine released an article about new bouldering in Yosemite. The article was lacking much in the way of content, which is often the norm in climbing journalism, and I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor about it. The resulting dialogue was ultimately very unproductive and basically a waste of my time. I nearly posted the back-and-forth emails but decided against it because doing so would only prolong the bitter taste it left in my mouth...that is until now. Deadpoint's newest issue has my first email printed in the letters to the editor (Matt Stark) section but with a minor edit and with a totally different, although equally snarky, response.
Here are the full emails, I've put Matt Stark's in bold to make distinguishing them a bit easier.
First of all I want to say that I enjoy your website very much. The videos in particular keep me coming back. The magazine often leaves something to be desired (content) but that seems to be the standard these days with all of the climbing rags, and yours seems to improve with each new issue. Typically when a new issue comes out I'll flip threw it online or at the gym and move on, sometimes I might point out a particularly good photo to a friend but that's it. Today I had a different experience. Reading the Yosemite article by Anthony Lapomardo left a really bad taste in my mouth. First of all neither Anthony nor a singe person pictured in the article has ever done a first ascent in the Valley. Not one of them has put forth the time and effort to find, clean or climb a single problem there. This guy is capitalizing on the hard work of others and doesn't even mention any of the names of those that did put in their time, nor does he mention the website from which he's gathered most of his beta, betabase.blogspot.com.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy seeing stories about get climbing areas, but I prefer them to be written by people who actually know what they're talking about. I assume this is the case when I read the Cooper's Rock article, HP40 article, ect. ect. but I'm not a local at either of those areas so I have no way to know. This is not the case for the Yosemite article. My hope is this is just a one time oversight but my fear is that your magazine may be inadvertently endorsing this kind of 'journalism' on a regular basis. This type of article only gives those that put forth the effort of cleaning and discovering new boulders cause for keeping quiet about their new discoveries. I think we can agree that is something most of us would like to avoid.
Thank you for your time. I still look forward to reading your magazine in the future.
We appreciate your input and would love to know how you feel we can improve our publication. Your opinion definitely does not fall on deaf ears. We are constantly striving to improve our platform and opinions like yours help us to mold a better product.
One thing I will say is I fail to see how "not doing a first ascent" disqualifies anyone to write about an area they frequent. Anthony's article was a short piece not intended to show historical perspective. It was just a "blip" to say new things were happening in the massive labyrinth of talus beneath the monolithic walls of Yosemite. I understand you feel your blog and long list of first ascents entitles you to be the one of the few people that has the right and privilege to talk about new bouldering activity in Yosemite, but we take a less elitist attitude. Anthony was psyched to write about Yosemite bouldering.Had you contacted us, we would have been just as psyched-maybe more so. My question is, so what if he only climbs established lines? Who cares that he doesn't have a BlogSpot or climbs v10? He sent us a query and some good photos and his article served the purpose we were looking for. We didn't want an elitist pro-centric article of "look what I did" or I'm the big man in Yosemite" we wanted something that was more relevant for climbers of all grades, but that just offered enough information to spark curiosity. Ultimately, that curiosity will lead them to your blog. I don't think anyone should feel threatened by what Anthony wrote. Let's face it, we all climb small rocks. Having a pissing contest about who did what first is silly. Maybe in the future we will do a more comprehensive article on Yosemite at which time we may solicit your help, but for this issue, we needed exactly what Anthony sent us.
Well, where to begin? First of all, I'm immediately struck by a tone of defensiveness in your response. I get it, this magazine is your baby and its hard to hear criticism. Just know that I wrote in the first place because I'm genuinely interested in the quality of the product you produce. I love climbing and I love high-quality climbing media. I'm also not the type of climbing media junkie that is unwilling to pay for my climbing media, if its good enough.
Second, I never said, "'not doing a first ascent' disqualifies anyone to write about an area they frequent." But if they are writing about doing first ascents, it would seem appropriate for the writer to know something about the subject. "So what if he only climbs established lines?" It would be as if someone who exclusively boulders wrote about big wall free climbing, it would ring a little hollow. The exception to this general rule (write what you know) is when the writer freely admits to being a novice and seeks the input of those with some expertise. Taking the big waller example a little further, you might read something in the article along the lines of, 'I asked Tommy Caldwell how he scopes out new free climbing projects."
I'll grant that the article is a short fluff piece and not a historical perspective so a detailed account of who FA'd, when was it done, and how many points do I get to put on my scorecard if I do it, would be unwarranted. A simple mention of some of the people involved would have gone a long way to make the article more substantial and meaningful. I wasn't looking for my name in there (I couldn't care less), but there are a few people that Anthony is acquainted with that have been putting up first ascents for years that deserve some gratitude, Paul Barraza, Randy Puro, Tim Medina to name a few. These guys will never read Deadpoint and they would never ask to be mentioned in it so printing their names isn't about feeding their egos either. It's about providing the reader with something of substance, not the crap we're asked to digest from Urban Climber.
Also, I never said anything about his climbing ability having anything to do with his ability to write this article. My complaint with the article has nothing to do with elitism, its about good journalism. Just for the record, I have nothing against Anthony.
"He sent us a query and some good photos and his article served the purpose we were looking for. We didn't want an elitist pro-centric article of "look what I did" or I'm the big man in Yosemite" we wanted something that was more relevant for climbers of all grades, but that just offered enough information to spark curiosity." Terrific, sounds like a great idea. I've only met Anthony once and he seemed like a friendly intelligent guy. As far as I know Anthony is not a journalist, but despite this his writing style is more than up to the task of handling a climbing article. Maybe he just needed the help of a good editor? Someone to provide a little direction.
"Maybe in the future we will do a more comprehensive article on Yosemite [...] but for this issue, we needed exactly what Anthony sent us." Hmmm, I don't think any journalistic magazine worth its salt would publish something exactly as it was sent. Every writer needs an editor.
Anyway its not just "climb[ing] small rocks." Anyone that puts countless hours of effort, countless hard earned weekends, and unbridled passion into anything knows that that pursuit more valuable than the sum of its parts. This is why artists name their paintings and climbers name their climbs, but I'm sure you already know this.
Best of luck,
If my tone came across as defensive, I truly missed the mark. I thought saying, "We appreciate your input and would love to know how you feel we can improve our publication. Your opinion definitely does not fall on deaf ears. We are constantly striving to improve our platform and opinions like yours help us to mold a better product." would encourage something more than what amounts to hate mail. Since that is not forthcoming, Unfortunately your points, although potentially valid, are somewhat lost in your hostility.
I know Anthony cares immensely about the boulders in Yosemite, and although he may have never have established a quiver of FA's,(neither one of us knows this for sure) he certainly is aware of the resurgence in development that has occurred in recent years. I can understand your desire to see more substance in an article about Yosemite, but like we have said, this article served its purpose. A feature on Yosemite bouldering could and should dive more into the history and give homage to those who conceived certain lines, but that is to be left for a feature.
I'll be sure to let Anthony know how you feel.
Thanks again for your input.
And he did in fact let Anthony know how I felt and Anthony sent me a message on Facebook. Our discourse was strange but a lot more civil.
Any thoughts people?