The first call I got Thursday morning was from Jason Orr. The new issue of Creative Loafing was out, and he was pissed about it.
Though he admitted he hadn't yet finished reading the CL cover story on Diary of a Decade — his new documentary which chronicles the rise of his iconic FunkJazz Kafé festival — he expressed his disappointment at the angle of the story and his intent to discredit it.
His main beef, as he repeatedly told me during our hour-long conversation, was that I'd killed his mystique and potentially damaged his brand by revealing too much personal information in the story.
After we talked, I encouraged him to put his response in writing for CL to publish online. He has since posted the following response on his FunkJazz Kafé website, titling it, "Sad Case of Irresponsible Journalism by Creative Loafing":
Wow. It’s appears that Creative Loafing chose the low road position in analyzing and journaling the accomplishments of FunkJazz Kafé and founder, Jason Orr. Therefore we are releasing the following statement:
“The cover article featured in the Creative Loafing publication written by Rodney Carmichael displays a form of commercial entertainment satire instead of truth and substance about FunkJazz Kafé. Their story unfortunately is misleading, misguided, misquoted, and does not reflect the true essence of the upcoming screening “Diary Of A Decade” documentary film. The primary purpose of this article was to express the interest and foundation of FunkJazz Kafé, along with the tenacious efforts in creating the documentary “Diary of A Decade”. Instead, the article conveys a much deeper insidious connotation to the brand by misinterpreting the concept of the documentary as being a controversial/conspiracy film; which is false. It further reflects an ambiguous view to the image, brand, and reputation of Founder and Creator of FunkJazz Kafé, Jason Orr. We at FunkJazz Kafé denounce the erroneous, irresponsible statements made in the article and will not associate the brand with this misleading article.”
As the founder/creator of FunkJazz Kafé, only Orr can determine whether the story enhances or damages his brand and image — and I respect his right to do so — but my intent as a journalist was neither. Rather, it was to tell an honest, factual story about a man who helped spark an alternative movement in Atlanta, and whose new film documenting that movement could potentially face the same quandary many artists within it have faced. I couldn't make up a storyline that compelling, and I'd be a piss-poor journalist if I chose to ignore it.
There are no misquotes in the story; I have over 10 hours of conversation, recorded with Orr's permission, to disprove that. I even kept the majority of our discussions off-the-record without him asking me to do so.
Unfortunately, Orr seems to have had other expectations regarding "the primary purpose of this article." But the story behind the story is what makes FunkJazz Kafé so vital nearly 20 years after its inception. Nothing can tarnish that, and it's discouraging that he feels that was my motive. If I'd known that he wanted me to tell anything other than the truth, I would've gracefully declined to cover the story. But I stand behind it despite the outcome, and consider it a professional and personal honor that I was a part of its telling.
I wholeheartedly encourage readers to go see the National Black Arts Festival screening of Diary of a Decade next Wed., July 13 at the Rialto Center of the Arts. It's epic.
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