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the future of arts journalism

Post #149 • November 12, 2003, 9:56 AM

Terry Teachout:

Yes, ours is a popular culture, and always was, even at the height of the middlebrow moment. But the difference between then and now is that the mass media once believed they had the power - and responsibility - to lead our democratic culture. Now they acknowledge no responsibility whatsoever. Instead, they merely seek to shore up their shrinking ratings and market shares by any means necessary, which means slavishly following the cultural election returns. Forget Vanity Fair (which in any case isn't exactly an agenda-setting organ these days, is it?). Consider instead the cultural abdication of PBS and NPR, our allegedly “public” radio and TV networks, which are walking away from the fine arts as briskly as possible, making no bones about it as they head for the exit.

So what do we do now? We blog. For as I've said in this space in contexts too varied and occasions too numerous to link, it's the blogosphere that offers the most potentially powerful alternative to the cultural auto-lobotomizing of Big Media. I no longer feel like bitching about That Which Is. I'm more interested in shaping That Which Will Be - and that means above all helping to create and encourage a richly varied, fully interconnected on-line presence for the arts. As far as I'm concerned, the future of arts journalism is here, and on the other arts blogs listed and linked in “Sites to See.” We're not big, but we're growing. We don't convene focus groups in order to decide what to write about. And we’re here to stay.

When we had that arts writers panel at Dorsch Gallery back in February, Rene Barge asked what the impact of digital publishing in general and blogging in particular would be on arts writing. Gene Moreno was dismissive of them, and said that good writing is paid for – Dave Hickey, for instance, doesn’t need a blog. My position is that we are looking forward to an era of mixed-venue publishing. Just as the majority of retailers have an online presence, a catalogue division, and brick-and-mortar stores, writers are going to be publishing online and in print simultaneously. Neither mode is going away for the time being, and each has its advantages.

Personally, I started blogging at a time when my work wasn’t getting in to print, and it created opportunities to do so. I can get a lot more of my thoughts out than I could if I was waiting around for my work to hit paper. I’m a convert, and I think Teachout is right. I would take it a step further: the present of arts journalism is here. I read much more arts writing online (on blogs and elsewhere) than in print. My prediction is that one day you will too, if you don’t already.

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