December 13, 2011
“When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before news systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it,” writes media analyst Clay Shirky in his online essay Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. “They are demanding to be lied to. There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.”
While aiming to tackle the facts, bring art history to life, and make good art into narrative, the arts journalist now faces the the decline of print journalism and the birth of the blogosphere. Both create greater obstacles for arts advocacy.
The newspaper used to be a direct line of arts communication. Arts writers within were able to heighten awareness of the arts and define its role in a community – critiquing individual exhibits, performances, productions or products, educating readers about current art offerings in a social or historical context, and demystifying the creative process.
Today, newspapers in places like Denver and Seattle have lost their second papers. San Franciso, Miami, and Philadelphia were discussing the dissappearance of their daily printed news as early as 2009. The Detroit Free Press printed three times a week then. Even The New York Times sold Renzo Piano Tower, made steep cost cuts, and threatened to close its susidiary, The Boston Globe.
An online news engine, Miller-McCune, clearly addresses the crisis. “The situation is most dire for the journalist themselves, who find themselves no longer able to make a living pursuing their passion, but it is also of great concern to arts administrators, who are just now coming to grips with the impending cutoff of one of their strongest lines of communication with the community.” writes Tom Jacobs in “Will Critique Work For Food.”
...but here's what I concluded...
Efforts for art advocacy and definition are on the rise. Engine29 defines itself as “a project for constructing an argument for arts journalism.” It was an experiment that gathered 29 arts journalists from across America and around the world for ten days in November. The journalists worked on six projects aimed to define arts journalism. They documented what they found out on their website, engine29.org.
In one project entitled “We Are All Journalists. Now What?” a segment of their findings addresses today’s arts journalists. “We are nosy; curious; passionate; inquisitive. We are all storytellers — grown up daydreamers operating in reality,” speaks Celeste Headlee, a recent Midwest correspondent for NPR.
“The reality is, the numbers do not cease the work of measuring how many of us are disappearing. Yes, we know our pages are shrinking. We have heard our listeners are tuning out and viewers are turning away. Where once we kept them rapt with the expertise of our craft, there are other voices now — many other voices now — that compete for their attention. The world evolves. And so we must, too.”