The Blue & Gold

The official newspaper of Chamblee High School, preserving the past for the future today!

The official newspaper of Chamblee High School, preserving the past for the future today!

The Blue & Gold

The official newspaper of Chamblee High School, preserving the past for the future today!

The Blue & Gold

Benson Boone Could Save Journalism

Or maybe the next promo pack will
The author and Benson Boone. Photo by Tucker Peters

Ok, I’ll bite.

Earlier this month, a colleague dropped by my classroom to ask a question and also to deliver a package that was sent to school “Attention Fred Avett.” It was a large document envelope, A4 size, and came from Warner Records. Instantly, I was excited. I collect records, maybe even have a problem with them. This package could have easily held a new release, maybe a high quality reissue.

After answering her question, I opened the package. No record. Instead, I found approximately 50 poster calendars featuring a larger-than-life photo of a white guy with a mustache. His name is Benson Boone. And here’s where this gets interesting.

I have been the Blue & Gold‘s adviser for nine years. In that time, we have received exactly zero promotional packages from anyone. The staff here, which changes year-to-year, has always covered pop culture from music and movies to must-have doodads and trendy thingamajigs. We publish those articles weekly, have for years. Yet, no packages. No posters. No CDs. No records. No press kits.

The reason has nothing to do with the quality or passion of my students. It has to do with the death of journalism, which has been going on for nearly two decades.

In a past life, I was involved in a small town weekly newspaper. I was part of the miniscule staff for over a decade and covered life in a small community. There was no movie theater or concert venue or book store. But we regularly received press kits or promotional items from companies. The message or intent was always clear: here’s a free sample of this new thing (a book, an album, a cool new item), now write about it so other people will want to buy it or see it or read it or whatever.

Even that well ran dry by the time I left the newspaper for greener pastures. The rise of the internet, and then of social media, was a development a weekly newspaper (even dailies) could not compete with. The flow of information and breaking news was near constant. Algorithms pushed content onto peoples’ computers and phones that they “wanted” to see and gave them nothing they didn’t want. It was – and still is – compelling and difficult to ignore. Come to school and take a look at students: they are all on their phones and laptops, watching their niche shows, listening to (or making!) their favorite music, playing games, and ignoring pretty much anything real.

Real talk: teachers aren’t much better.

The end of the monoculture, one in which we all watched or read or listened to the same stuff and could thus discuss, giving us a sense of belonging and commonality with our fellow humans, is not such a bad thing. Corporations largely controlled it all. And yet, I feel now that some common ground is not such a bad thing. I mean, the reason we still (try to) read Shakespeare is because everyone else reads Shakespeare and his works have been part of our culture for so long that it’s common ground (and still applicable and funny and tragic).

I had all of this in mind as I stared into the eyes of Benson Boone the other day. He looks like someone asked ChatGPT: “What would a 13-year-old Canadian girl find sexy?” I had never heard of or seen him before, but several students had – “oh, he makes music on TikTok” – and then the next day I heard my daughter (who I still love) play one of his songs. 

The song wasn’t great, but lyrically and musically, it is what teenagers get and understand and need every once in a while. Pop music exists and is ubiquitous for a reason. It’s the lowest common denominator of music, something we can all relate to or vibe with (or vibe to?). We understand it. No mystery. Words and imagery and style that connect.

And, naturally for someone voted as the biggest prankster on the school’s staff, I put up the posters in as many classrooms as I could and handed out others to students who actually wanted them. And, in case you missed it, I wrote about Benson Boone. And, in case you missed it, you read about him! But the joke is not on you or me. This is no joke.

Whoever at Warner Records decided to send these packages out to every high school journalism class in the country is on to something. There are not many journalism classes left. But this piece will get picked up by news aggregating bots and reposted elsewhere and more people will also read about Benson Boone. And – here’s the pitch – by writing about him and publishing it and taping his face to our walls, Warner Records (and other labels) should send more cool stuff to the Blue & Gold, Attention Fred Avett, 3688 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd, Chamblee, GA 30341. We publish stuff all the time!

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About the Contributor
Fred Avett
Fred Avett, Adviser
This is Mr. Avett’s eighth year as the adviser to the greatest school newspaper ever. In five years - that’d be 2028, right? - he hopes to be in the arena for the final night of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. Three of his favorite things are: his coffee scoop from Zabars, Fushitsusha’s first live double album, and Kaneda’s bike from Akira.

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