First things first: I implore you to read Jordan Sargent’s brilliantly reported, comprehensive feature on the rise and fall of MTV News. The piece, published in Spin, is crammed with valuable insights into the media industry, as well as the oft-contentious relationship between media and those it covers/critiques.
The most eye-opening portion of the feature—which again, you really should read—concerns Chance the Rapper. At just 24, the Chicago MC has earned three Grammy Awards and heaps of praise for his mixtape Coloring Book, which catapulted him from an opening act to a festival headliner in a single year. But in the Spin story, after then-staff writer David Turner wrote a review critical of Coloring Book, branding the rapper a “false prophet,” Chance (via his management) threatened the cable-TV network, claiming that he was “never working with MTV again.” The piece was later published by Turner on Medium.
So, MTV News Editorial Director of Music Jessica Hopper reportedly opted to delete the Chance the Rapper story under pressure from MTV’s music and talent (M&T) division. She explained the decision to her staff on Slack—messages that were obtained by Sargent.
“Chance and his management became aware of David’s piece via the repost on Snapchat Discover and subsequently told MTV, amid high-level negotiations for linear specials, that he was never working with MTV again because of it,” wrote Hopper. “M&T asked us to unpublished and scrub it from social media as they attempt to repair this with him and his management. It is upsetting for obvious journalistic reasons—we stand behind everything we publish. Right now, we are unsure how it may impact Chance-related projects both in and outside of News if the relationship cannot be repaired. Everyone agrees it was a fair and reasoned piece of criticism…”
When Spin reached out to Chance’s representation for comment, his manager responded as follows:
“Upon the publication of the article, Chance and I got together & both agreed that the article was offensive. When we brought our concerns to MTV, our rep agreed that the article was ‘a harsh shot’ & took ownership of the editorial misstep. From there, MTV chose to, on their own volition, to remove the piece. We have a long history with MTV, which we cherish. You may notice, Chance will be appearing in the season opener of Wild ‘N Out tmw night (6/29) on MTV.”
It’s common for editors to field complaints from management and/or publicists when running a critical story. I’ve fielded my fair share for stories published here at The Daily Beast, although it is our policy in the entertainment section to never alter or remove a story unless there are proven factual errors. And, while management and publicists sometimes request alterations to pieces, it is very rare for representation to request that a piece be deleted entirely.
It is odd that MTV felt the need to cave in to artist pressure given the amount of influence it wields, between its TV channel, website, and numerous awards shows/specials.