Arts Issues for Artists & Presenters: March 2007 Archives
I've been toodling around the Web today, trying to add the arts pages of newspapers around the Inland northwest to my list of bookmarks.
I say, "trying," because I've been thwarted at nearly every stop, and simply saddened at others.
Top story under the catch-all "Entertainment" link at the Idaho Statesman today? This story, about a certain restaurant's cheese steak. Local arts stories -- or, I should say, the one local arts story -- is buried on the page below the AP entertainment wire feed.
Meantime, over at the Spokane Spokesman-Review site, I just find myself plain lost. As best I can tell, their only online arts stories are consigned to the blog entries of their correspondents at their hipster online feed, "7". And most of those entries are little more than calendar listings and such. There's good arts writing there (and I know there's good writing at the Idaho Statesman as well; my old pal Dana Oland is there and she's no slouch!), but it's not just hard to find; it's almost impossible.
The same is true elsewhere -- including at my own paper, the Missoulian, where you'll find some of the arts coverage under the "Entertainer" link (IF you can find the Entertainer in that endless list of section links); and some of it simply in the daily news section. It just depends how it ran in the paper.
I know that there's tons of stuff happening every week in Spokane and Boise -- the biggest cities in this sparsely populated part of the world. I know, anecdotally, that some of it is pretty interesting.
And now I know how frustrating it must be for people outside of our newsrooms to find out what that stuff is.
The editor of the Washington Post, Len Downie, sent a email to his newsroom Wednesday demanding shorter inch-counts. "Writers need to take responsibility for earning every inch of their stories," the memo says. The entire memo is reproduced by the Washingtonian website. Is this smart editing or is this yet another example of the written word aping other forms of media? If it's the latter, why bother? Why would people turn to a newspaper for short writing when they can more easily go elsewhere? Such as Yahoo's use of Reuters and AP in little nuggets of information. Aren't we writing ourselves out a of job? Shouldn't newspaper write longer in order to provide greater, more analytical, understanding?
And last question: Why do news organizations strive to be like their competitors? Shouldn't they be doing everything possible to not be like them? Have we ever heard of branding?
See related post: "Bad Arts Writing: Part 2."
In one of the NEA Arts Journalism Insitute sessions, Ben Cameron expounded on how the original vision for theater non-profits is that shows would begin on Broadway and then make their way out to the non-profits. Instead, the opposite has happened. Shows are now being created in regional theaters and then make their way to Broadway, a place where only the safe, money-makers appear.
So it's not too surprising that people who for many years made their careers in New York are heading back to their hometowns. Mark Ruhala, an artist who choreographed some of NEA Chairman Dan Gioia's poetry has returned to his hometown where he is bringing experimental dance and minimalist theater to young people. This weekend they open the critically acclaimed Once On This Island, a musical the town has yet to see.
Earlier this week, the composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty hosted a benefit for Katrina victims and the documentary "After the Storm," a film version about how Katrina survivors produced their musical one year after the hurricane:
After The Storm is a non-profit Film/Theater project designed to bring hope and financial aid to children and young adults of New Orleans. A feature documentary follows a company of young, non-professional actors from New Orleans as they stage a musical play one year after the levees broke and changed their lives. The film will then be used as a springboard to launch a nationwide program encouraging high school drama clubs and community theaters to raise money for the established 501(c)3. All proceeds from both the play and the film will go to After The Storm Foundation.