May 14, 2006
Mumbo Jumbo Will Hodoo Youby
Let me make a case for daily newspapers, even as I make it online. The undeniable advantages of newspapers' professional approach have been broached here, namely, that a critic must acquire authority not just claim it, that there are filtering mechanisms, i.e. editing, insuring some measure of accuracy and seriousness, that, in short, not everybody is a critic. But there is more. Daily newspapers are a medium unlike any other. After deliberation, a newspaper decides what chunk of news -- very broadly defined since it includes features -- is worth enveloping in a finite number of columns, the old news that's fit to print, a commonplace, yes, but one that can be wisely applied. And the newspaper reader makes no direct choices. This would seem to contradict the democratic impulses that elicit so much praise for the Internet. So be it. Democracy is a great thing... in government. Other institutions work best under other rules. As a reader, I don't want to choose what news is fit to print; I want to read the damn news. Which brings us to arts journalism. The very messy nature of American newspaper journalism is one of its virtues. We don't demand a bureaucratized certification process -- you don't have to belong to a journalists institute, pass a journalism board exam or even have gone to j school to be a journalist. But we do demand proved expertise and that is something each newspaper decides on its own. Like so many great American institutions it is a mix of free market democracy and the rigor of tradition. Fine. The trouble is that something has gone terribly wrong in American journalism. It is bogged down in rules and traditions that are actually relatively new but are applied as if they were gospel truths. Objectivity, Joe Horowitz's hobby horse, is one of them. It isn't just that objectivity is a questionable, dismissable really, philosophical position. It's that objectivity is barely a factor in the arts, so how can we expect it in arts journalism? (Accuracy is another matter.) Passion is most definitely a component of the arts and, therefore, of the impulse of arts journalism. Enter the bloggers, all passion all the time. What the amateur critics of the blogosphere prove is the need for that passion, which I would translate as the need for a new paradigm in arts journalism -- and in journalism in general. Perhaps I am sadly mistaken and out of step with "young" sensitivities, but I read print journalism when I was "young" and got fired up by it. And I've lived long enough to be skeptical about "new media." Beware of juju words and juju trends and juju technologies or you might wind up buying 8-track tapes on eBay.
Posted by at May 14, 2006 9:02 PM