Bad Arts Writing: Part 2
I should preface this by saying that we all make mistakes. Certainly, given the pressures of space and time, we have all at one point or another chosen the road more frequently traveled. And I don't single out the errors of this particular journalist for personal reasons.
However, a review Sunday in the Charleston Post and Courier on a performance by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra exemplifies why I believe reviewing as it is popularly understood to mean has a problematic future in the newsroom.
The review, as it is put into practice here, follows the tenets of journalism: what happened, where did it happen, who did it and was it good. It is a thumbs-up/thumbs-down approach that falls in line with the logic of consumer journalism -- give the reader value by telling the reader what's worth spending money on.
With this ideology in mind, the critic does not provide context, meaning, observation beyond the event, commentary or insight -- all the things that would give reviews a raison d'etre both for those who did not attend the concert and for those who did.
This is the kind of thing that Mitchell Stephens talks about in his brilliant and convincing article in the latest issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.
"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."
I can't add much to Stephens' article, because it is so comprehensive and so insighful. However, what I will say is that the more we write in the fashion exercised by the Charleston writer, the more we are undermining our own jobs.
That's because thumbs-up/thumbs-down reviews can be done so much better in venues other than newspapers. Yahoo!, for instance. Perhaps Yahoo! can't connect on a local level, but consider how the Wikipedia model seems to be giving the newspaper industry cause to consider the viability of reader-generated reviews.
Why not? All the newsroom staffers are doing is going to concerts and saying who, when, where and if it was good, right? Why pay them a salary and benefits when we can get the same product for free and get readers to buy into publications, which are "no longer in the newspaper business, but in the information business."
Thus Spake Management . . .
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