The roles of journalist, artist, audience, and curator are being redefined and reshuffled. What’s the difference between a curator and a critic? Is gathering up information a journalist’s job or an artist’s? Is building an audience a journalistic function or an artistic one? Where are the new structures that are supporting artists and arts organizations? Where are the structures that will support journalists? What exactly is a JOURNALIST anymore?
The plain answer is that we don’t know. We value great critics. We value great journalists. How do we find new ways to support great critics and journalists that build on what they do best and keep it viable? What we’re trying to do here is articulate a series of ideas that challenge conventional models that, even if they don’t particularly solve anything, are ways of looking at the major issues in arts journalism and trying to think about them differently.
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In the summer of 2009 we posted an open call for projects in arts journalism. We expected a few dozen submissions and received 109. The huge response is indicative of the energy and creativity currently directed towards finding new models to sustain arts journalism. The idea behind the Summit call was not to choose the five “best” arts journalism projects. There is no such thing. Had “best” been the goal, we might have ended up with several projects that looked more or less alike.
We wanted to represent a range of thinking and ideas. Just like culture, journalism about culture is specific to its task at hand. Comparing a well-written blog with a highly-produced documentary is impossible; they’re built to do different things. The purpose of the National Summit on Arts Journalism is not to declare a “winner” but to shine light on a range of compelling ideas and issues being addressed by the myriad projects that have been made possible, in part, by the digital revolution. In other words, our goal is not to end the conversation with these choices, but to start conversations by showcasing projects that might give us a peek into the future. What we have attempted to do is choose projects that offer a range of ideas and identify new opportunities for better ways of reporting on the arts.
Over the Summer of 2009, an open call went out for projects in arts journalism. We had expected 30-40 submissions but got 109 by the deadline of August 17. Winnowing down the 109 to five examples that illustrate where we might be headed was a daunting task. There are real unsung heroes and many “one-man bands” that do amazing work and are deeply valued in their communities. People who care about culture have joined forces in many cities to create projects designed to shine attention on the creativity found locally. In some places, established media have attempted to reinvent the ways they cover culture in hopes of finding new models that are supportable. Entrepreneurs have poured their sweat into reinventing the very idea of what it means to do cultural journalism. This is a time of experimentation; so experimental in fact that the submissions didn’t suggest any broadly agreed-upon themes or approaches to figuring out the new arts journalism. One thing seems clear: No single model is going to emerge any time soon.
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