Showcase Projects

Here are the five projects that were chosen for A National Summit on Arts Journalism as demonstrations of arts journalism ideas or issues that challenge conventional models:

Sophie – Multimedia Publishing Tool
Presenter: Holly Willis
Institute for Multimedia Literacy, USC
Los Angeles, CA

The art of arts journalism is changing. Who says the perfect critical response to a work of art is the 800-word review? Why simply describe when you can show? Why just show when you can explain? And why limit your explanation to words or images or video or sound when you can integrate them all? Sophie is an authoring tool that encourages users to play with relationships between text, image, sound and video in telling stories.

Translating a dance movement or a musical texture into words is a compromise – sometimes an artful compromise, to be sure – but tools like Sophie – developed by the Institute for Multimedia Literacy – are attempting to expand the arts journalist’s toolbox. IML professor and journalist Holly Willis explains the thinking behind Sophie and version 2.0, which is released October 15. View Transcript.

NPR Music – Public Media
Presenter: Anya Grundmann
National Public Radio

Every traditional media company in the world is struggling to reinvent itself. Radio companies can’t just stick to the airwaves; they have to deliver across all platforms, just like newspapers and TV must. This reinvention isn’t simply about delivery in new formats; the very nature of what being a radio network is has to evolve. NPR Music has been a little pioneering insurgency inside the walls of its NPR mother ship.

The unit’s goal is not just to tell you about things you’ll be interested in, but try to bring you the things themselves. They produce concerts, host discussions, and present musicians. They’re not just delivering information, but trying to convey important elements of the experience itself. Unsure that traditional critics are the best way to contextualize, convey, or understand the culture of music, they blur lines between journalist and audience.

It’s not that NPR Music doesn’t still use critics or journalists; it’s that the journalists’ roles have evolved just as the media platforms through which they’re delivered have. Are they presenters? Producers? Curators? Journalists? Where does the journalism fit in all this? Journalist Anya Grundmann, who leads the team behind NPR Music, explains how NPR is trying to rethink how it covers music. View Transcript.

Cedar Rapids Gazette – Newspaper
Presenter: Steve Buttry
Cedar Rapids, IA

Steve Buttry asks: what actually IS news? How do we define it? Who creates it? Who’s it for? The Cedar Rapids Gazette isn’t driving towards AN answer to these questions. It’s willing to look at definitions outside of traditional journalism and realize there might be MANY answers. The Gazette website is not great yet, and it’s hardly a leader in arts journalism. So what does it have to say about arts journalism?

Changing definitions of news is a challenge to the idea that there are clearly defined roles for journalists and critics and artists and institutions. Where is community opinion? Who gives the context? Who reports? On what? Who makes judgments and what do those judgments mean?

Whitney Houston is afraid to go on a big tour because the Twitter-chatter is so immediate that one cracked note could sink the whole thing. Blockbuster summer movies are thought to be critic-proof because their fan bases will buy tickets no matter what any critic says. Traditional arts journalism has covered some kinds of culture very well while other kinds of culture have been largely invisible. If the definitions of news change how will arts journalism have to change with them? Steve Buttry is the Gazette editor who believes that reinventing the news starts with reinventing the definition of news. View Transcript.

InstantEncore – Aggregator
Presenter: Margo Drakos
San Diego, CA

There’s too much information. So how do you find and sort through what you want? One strand of journalism has settled on aggregation as a way of editing the web. is attempting to be an uber-aggregator – the Google of classical music. Its founders believe that aggregation of everything classical music will make the music accessible to more people. Previously, only critics or experts might have had such access. So is this a challenge to the traditional journalistic model?

Aggregators like Digg, Newsvine and Google News suggest that putting comprehensive information in one place allows users to make up their own minds without the need for traditional journalists. InstantEncore’s ambition is to give users the ability to peer into the corners of an art form, see what people are doing, and then decide whether or not to interact with it. InstantEncore sees a world in which it’s possible to see culture in real time rather than wait for others to bring back second-hand reports.

So where does the journalism fit in? Can you do journalism as automated feeds and without editors and journalists? Margo Drakos is a cellist who has had a thriving career as a cellist, but has turned her attention to trying to expand accessibility to classical music as the COO of InstantEncore. View Transcript.

Indianapolis Museum of Art – Arts Institution
Presenter: Max Anderson
Indianapolis, IN

As arts coverage disappears from the traditional press, many cultural institutions are bypassing journalists and speaking directly to their communities. Traditionally, arts journalists have been connectors between artists and audiences, getting the word out, setting context, evaluating quality. Seeing traditional journalism slip away, arts organizations are wondering why they shouldn’t take over some of these roles themselves.

The Indianapolis Museum is one of the most forward thinking in rethinking its relationship with its community. Art Babble articulates the museum’s aesthetic in partnership with other producers, and makes clear that the galleries in Indianapolis are only an incremental expression of that larger aesthetic. Traditionally, setting context for art, artists and institutions has been one of the central roles of the critic. The Indianapolis Museum has also developed a Digital Dashboard, making available every mundane detail of the inner workings of the museum available online. The point? Communities become more engaged when the community is empowered with information. How does this dynamic apply to arts journalism?

Access to information about cultural institutions and context-setting shifts from independent reporters and critics to the institutions themselves. Or does it? Do artists still need the press to get information out? Max Anderson was director of the Whitney Museum in New York before he came to lead the IMA. He’s been rethinking the relationships between museums and their audiences for many years. View Transcript.


[...] yeah, and NPR Music was also one of the showcase finalists. Posted in: Culture, Film and Television, History, Local [...]

[...] Sophie – an authoring tool that encourages users to play with relationships between text, image, sound and video in telling stories. [...]

journalistic: change « project: transparence -- October 11th, 2009 at 1:06 am

[...] were you streaming? if not, i’m going to spend a little time on p:t talking about the 5 showcase projects, chosen for their innovation in the field of arts journalism and the 5 public projects whose focus [...]

Sophie 2.0 – NEW IML Site -- March 14th, 2012 at 11:41 am

[...] Sophie 2.0 was recently featured as one of the tools destined to alter the future of journalism in the National Arts Journalism Summit. Watch the video here. [...]

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