At the NEA Arts Journalism Institute, we kept hearing how the future for critics is brighter than we think. Given the masses of information people are forced to consume everyday, someone has to sort it all out, make sense it all, discern what's important. In others, use his or her analytical powers to provide greater meaning beyond the news.
That's just the kind of thing Mitchell Stephens talked about in his latest piece for the Columbia Journalism Review.
A historian of American journalism at New York University, Stephens addresses the threat to traditional newsgathering posed by emerging technologies by suggesting a strategy that we can do even now: by giving readers more than just the news.
As Stephens writes:
"The extra value our quality news organizations can and must regularly add is analysis: thoughtful, incisive attempts to divine the significance of events -- insights, not just information [my bold]. What is required -- if journalism is to move beyond selling cheap, widely available, staler-than-your-muffin news -- is, to choose a not very journalistic-sounding word, wisdom.
"Here's more historical precedent: In the days when dailies monopolized breaking news, slower journals -- weeklies like The Nation, The New Republic, Time -- stepped back from breaking news and sold smart analysis. Now it is the dailies, and even the evening news shows, that are slow. Now it is time for them to take that step back."
Elsewhere, Stephens writes of an American newspaper committed to deploying this strategy: The Times Herald-Record, in Middletown, N.Y.
"No one is suggesting that reporters pontificate, spout, hazard a guess, or 'tell' when it is indeed 'too soon to tell.' No one is suggesting that they indulge in unsupported, shoot-from-the-hip tirades.
"'It's not like talk radio,' explains one of the champions of analytic journalism [my bold], Mike Levine, executive editor of the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, New York. But it's not traditional American journalism either.
"Levine, a former columnist, had noticed that the analyses reporters unburdened themselves of in conversations in the newsroom were often much more interesting than what ended up in the paper. Some of that conversation is mere loose talk and speculation, of course. Yet 'walk into any newsroom in America,' Levine says, 'turn the reporters upside down, and a hundred stories will come falling out. They know so much about the communities they cover, but they don't get it in the newspaper.'"
I can't overemphasize the importance of this article to our jobs as arts journalists. If we are to matter in the future, we have to make the case for more analytical journalism. We have to make the case for what Joe Nickell, our co-host here at Art.Rox, calls "critical relativism."
Joe just wrote a piece for the Montana Journalism Review, outlining with brilliant clarity the meaning and significance of this concept. He'll likely post something on the article soon.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog