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March 14, 2007

Where lie our loyalties?

Bridgette Redman

One of the elements that struck me in the story about the Seattle art critic gone awry were these statements:

In December, she said, the paper asked him to choose between curating art exhibitions and acting as a reviewer because of the potential for a conflict of interest, and he chose curating. "Books, that's the thing for me now," Kangas confirmed, reflecting a career shaped not by the monogamy and security of staff jobs, but by the constant shifting of priorities and loyalties necessitated by contract work.

With more newspapers outsourcing the majority of arts coverage to stringers, the question of loyalty becomes an intricate one. It's certainly one that I've stopped and asked myself. When I left my newspaper staff job nearly 15 years ago, one of the biggest joys was that I was now free to participate to a greater degree in the arts community. When I returned to the newspaper as a freelance critic and columnist, it was with different priorities and loyalties.

Yes, I am loyal to my newspaper and want to see it succeed. However, a higher priority is to see the arts community thrive. Most of the time, those loyalties complement each other. High quality arts coverage is good for the newspaper and good for the arts community. The more I strive to write better reviews and stories, the more both will benefit.

However, my commitment to arts journalism transcends any single source that I write for. As my newspaper cuts its budget for arts coverage, I do whatever I can to offer creative alternatives. In the mean time, I expand what I write elsewhere, even if that means creating competing news sources. Some of that is simply the life of a freelancer, but most of it is that the commitment to arts journalism isn't just about what is best for the newspaper. It's about what is best for the community in which I live.

In many of the issues that art.rox is exploring, I believe we'll find shades of differences in how freelancers and staffers respond to different issues. It will certainly make for an enriching discussion.

Posted by Bridgette Redman at March 14, 2007 9:16 AM

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