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September 25, 2007

book/daddy: Localism bad for arts coverage

John Stoehr

book/daddy (aka Jerome Weeks) dropped in overnight to comment on my post about newspapers aiming for difference, not sameness. Unique content will attract readers, not content (i.e., wire stories) found in a plethora of other sources. The thinking is that editors and journalists need to look locally, not nationally.

book/daddy, however, politely demurred. He said such a mindset might do more to undermine arts coverage, reducing it to a one-man beat shop, than to diversify it. As he writes:

Movies, TV, pop and classical music CDs, books -- all of that is, more or less corporate and nationwide. Ergo, in this scenario, unless there's sufficient local activity in those arts -- and frequently, there isn't -- then there's little reason for much of an arts staff or arts section.

The idea that, say, the local classical music critic might have something original to say about the latest Placido Domingo CD is not a consideration. Without enough of a local TV industry or theater community to bother with, those beats get killed or cobbled together under one arts writer-editor-critic or covered by wire stories.

He also weighed on John Dvorak's argument that national subscriptions to the New York Times are evidence of readers' desire for original content and not wire service copy. book/daddy, in a urbane turn of phrase, calls this "bullshit."

Only people of a certain economic and educated kind buy the NYTimes all over the country. The Times deliberately set out to snare that audience, and the mantra used to be that the Times would sell basically within 5 miles (or 10 or whatever) of any place with a Saks store. In short, college-educated, upper-middle-class- to upper-class people are more alike from Florida to Oregon than they are like their blue-collar neighbors.

Find all of Mr. Weeks' commentary here.

Posted by John Stoehr at September 25, 2007 10:38 AM