Celebrated rock critic Chuck Klosterman will be in Norman next week to speak about his experiences working in the media and share his observations on pop culture.
After graduating from the University of North Dakota in 1994, Klosterman worked as a journalist in Fargo, N.D., and later served as an arts critic for the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio.
His 2001 book, “Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota,” a witty look into the history and influence of glam-metal, was well-received by readers and critics. He moved to New York City in 2002, where he worked as a senior writer at Spin magazine. Since his move, he has contributed cultural, music and sports commentary to GQ, Esquire, The Washington Post and ESPN The Magazine, among others. Klosterman has penned five books, including the essay collections “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto” and “Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas.”
Last year’s “Downtown Owl” was his first novel. The book centers around the connection of three characters who live in a fictional town of Owl, N.D.
Klosterman will be on the University of Oklahoma campus for two days. On Tuesday, he will give a 7 p.m. speech and host a book signing for the public at the university’s Dale Hall, Room 200. He has also been asked to lead student-only programs on Wednesday, said Chris Borthick, a journalism adviser at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Media.
Klosterman said he doesn’t have a specific topic in mind for either OU appearance, and said he generally lets audiences shape the discussion and direction of his speeches.
“Students always have certain interests,” he said. “Journalism students want to ask about interviewing and the craft of writing, but a lot of them are curious about this recent social networking phenomena. They want to know how they’re supposed to feel about Facebook and Twitter.”
From April through August of last year, Klosterman lived in Germany, where he worked as a guest literature professor at the University of Leipzig. A recently completed collection of essays largely written during this time overseas will be released this fall, he said.
The experience teaching, working with and observing non-American youth lent Klosterman a unique perspective on how culture is shaped early by the priorities of educators.
“When you try to teach writing to German kids, you learn that they grow up in schools that emphasize discipline and strict, inflexible rules,” he said. “Here, students seem a lot more concerned with having a ‘voice’ and how to best put themselves into their writing; that’s the main thing they want to do: Write from that first-person perspective.”
Klosterman said the styles and concerns of both American and German students are especially clear when stacked against the most basic tenet of journalism.
“A typical German student is closer to what we conceive of a traditional journalist: consumed with overcoming personal biases,” he said.
But Klosterman added that the rigid focus of some German student-journalists often stifled them from noticing and reporting on the obvious. As an example, he illustrated a news situation a young journalist might be asked to cover: a school bus careening off a road into a lake.
“The German student would get all the facts down without a problem, but might not accurately convey what happened. They’d ask, ‘Can I really use the word “tragedy?”‘”
The fight against bias is a battle Klosterman worries news outlets and journalists are losing. Modern news consumers, he argues, increasingly seek outlets that provide information catering to specific worldviews.
“It makes it almost impossible to have a discussion or a discourse,” he said. “It takes an unclear world and makes it more unclear. In the past, everyone believed the media had all these agendas. Now they’re right.” “Joe Wertz