Jazz journalism and the NAJP’s arts journalism summit

The Jazz Journalists Association, of which I’m president, has hope to produce a nationwide conference on media transitions and how currently active professionals cope with them. Today’s National Arts Journalism Program’s summit raises many of the issues and even more questions that challenge my colleagues and I. So I’m going to do some live blogging here, posting a succession of comments while in the lecture hall of Columbia U’s j-school with about a dozen other journalists, watching the summit taking place at the USC Annenberg Center in LA. Here we go, starting with my reaction to the first hour of the summit’s content (the tech’s working pretty well!)  

So far, the discussion is based on an institutional level. I completely agree with the idea that arts journalists (and all journalists) must use new technology to penetrate the new media landscape. And I understand that I ought to today put aside my particular interests in advancing my specific “beat” and absorb this discussion as an arts journalist overall, not a writer addressing the specific problems of those facing prevailing editorial assumptions about the value of coverage for this beat itself. That is a task for my colleagues and I once we’ve mastered the new tech and new landscape. 

But I find the discussion of the most exciting possibilities (personally at NPR Music — since I’ve been a freelance arts reporter on air for NPR News for 23 years) somewhat disingenuous, or at least overlooking what the role of the actual creator of arts journalism — the journalist. Can freelancers participate in creating these new institutional platforms, or must we wait until they’re constructed and then hope to become staffers/contributors? Or do the new media offer independent consultants — bloggers, video makers, webcasters, etc. — any way to discover financial support for ourselves as individual critics/reporters establishing our own platforms, sites, etc? I hope this will be addressed as the day goes on.

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  1. says

    “In the communication of ideas, complex or simple, we haven’t really gone past the written word” says the man from the New York Times who reviews video games. “Beyond the 140 characters available to tweet. . . Critical thinking expressed in the written word, I don’t think anything’s surpassed that for delivering complex ideas.”
    Right on, say writers. But what about those non-writing (and less-reading) consumers of “arts journalism,” or anything newsy.”Sophie” is a multimedia format NAJP has identified as cuting edge. Can anybody use it? Can we make up our own? One person putting it together, or a team effort required?

  2. says

    Laura Sydell from NPR mentions reading theNYTimes Sunday book review for the pleasure in itself — and subsequently, the work of criticism as a work of art in itself. This is the way we who are engage in arts journalism looks at it. Critics thinking criticism is itself a pleasure to read! Or are we mostly fooling ourselves, and people just want the info? Jeff Chang says arts journalism is about bringing communities together. A point that George E. Lewis (of Columbia U’s Center for Jazz Studies) makes at the end of his book Power Stronger Than Itself about the AACM, writing that there might hnot have been an AACM without jazz journalists (we helped identify it, spread word of it, argue about it, etc.)
    The focus of the new culture editor at the New York Times, says his reporter Seth Schiesel, is to engage more on social media, directly from the editorial dept. to the consumers themselves. This is sort of what the #jazzlives Twitter campaign was about. (It continues, by the way, demonstrating remarkable spread of live jazz, if not the viral energy of audience members raising their hands to say ‘Yeah, #jazzlives”).

  3. says

    2nd round of NAJP proposals competing for funding are demonstrated:
    a) interactive panoramas portraying entire communities, hot spots on continuous slide show offering audio material (Imagine we’re touring NYC’s or Chicago’s, or New Orleans’) night spots and have video/audio material at each “stop”, created or covering those principals at each venue). Juan Davis who describes this talks about each of his panoramas being distinct (they’re mostly about under-deserved neighborhoods) and using this multi-media production as an opportunity to teach multi-media production. So it seems to circumvent professional journalists to teach students to do work comparable to theirs. Excellent social organizing, “the community we work with as collaborators, then they’ll collaborate in a different way with us.” Yes, but not as artists or arts productions being evaluated.

  4. says

    b) Glasstire – Texas site for visual arts presentations throughout the state, self-supported via budget (2008) of $198,000, evidently solicited from donors, mostly. injecting a sense of irreverence, smart by entertaining to read. “One of the first regionally oriented websites” — they’re not covering national/intern’l events, but the nat’l/internt’l source for regional (Texas) events. Similar to jazzwebsites created by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, perhaps, or AllAboutJazz-New York (as opposed to AllAboutJazz.com which tries to cover the world). Glasstire commissions and pays arts journalists. Yay!
    the Tweeterers continue to ask How arts journalists can make money. The staff thinks that will be discussed in the “business of arts journalism” roundtable coming up.

  5. says

    Flypmedia.com – the man behind it is formerly chief ed of People, Life and Time — again the emphasis is multi-media (that web can accomodate) can be used simultaneous in one story. “like a mag story-telling experience, but using much more than paper and ink,text and photography). 10 people work for him, 2/3rds designers. Looking for “the optimal format for a story.” Video’s “most efficient medium for getting to know somebody. . . the problem of text is an interesting one. . . great for setting themes, inserting fact, and the deeper layers convey as much information as you want, but main text is very short, compression extreme — top layer almost a navigation device.” Principal job is expository and narrative, and blogs are the best places for “critics.” Completely funded by private investment. Reliance on “rich media advertising” — he says there’s a lot of “really good rich media advertising” which doesn’t have a good place to live. Aw, poor advertisers! Publishers should not give up the brand before investigating the way job can be done better using all media, online. Hear this Down Beat? Jazz Times? Signal2Nosie? The Wire? But yes, if it costs more (staff of designers) and there’s NO “rich media advertising” for jazz, classical, avant-garde, blues, other niche musics?

  6. says

    I think that there are different strata of readers:
    1. those for whom the 140 letter (hopefully including a link)tweet is enough;
    2. those for whom one 100 word article says it all, an article that ends with Recommended Listening…or Performance;
    3. those for whom authorial introspection about music, whether recorded or live, helps to ease the reader into the music (especially if it is new and interesting) enough that the reader looks into the music further;
    4. those who are interested only in the status quo subject matter for journalism.
    5. those who believe that academic, footnoted treatises on jazz are the only means to the truth about creativity.
    I use technology and networking sites to broadcast my writing…I hope that it works.

  7. says

    Now here’s one that can be a model for us, perhaps: 11 year old site San Francisco Classical Music Voice, Patty Gessener, exec. producer: founded by former music critic of SF Chronicle (in jazz, is Don Heckman’s International Review of Music the start of something similar. Well no, it’s more of a blog). Calendar that can be filtered by personal preferences (kids, east bay, concert, listen to sound clip, click through to ticket sale). Social networking — how does the community want to participate? Concert announcements can be saved to social networking sites by readers. (Big deal). Coverage from a critical and news standpoint of gen’l Bay Area community, getting news scoops — large stable of freelancers working on a per-article basis, all submissions paid, NOT on page-per-view basis. A non-profit, $350,000 budget, approx; revenue from community gifts, donors, online-contributors, membership opportunity from Bay Area arts group if they think “there’s really no one else to tell their story.” Aiming to have 25% membership underwriting budget — have in one yr moved from 2% to 10% “earned income.” “We’re able to attract very talented people who have expertise.” That’s the Jazz.com model — paying freelancers. Good as long as that donor/contributor stream is there.

  8. says

    Flavorpill.com — in 6 cities, NY, SF, Miami, Chgo, LA, London — covering arts w/ artists reviews, cd reviews — Mark Mangan CEO: 25 interesting arts events chosen each week ” a platform in which “journalists participate with venues and readers.” trying to create relationship with new readers the way they want to receive the info. [Doug McLennan says flavorpill actually is effective in driving traffic to those few events/artists is chooses]. they want 10,000 subscribers; have 15 full timers in New York, 20 regular freelancers on different publications, another 100 freelancers less often — everyone paid. He’s built in “incentives” for writers via page-views, and he think it improves the copy. Flavorpill takes $ from venue sponsors who are “partners” in the “Flavorpill 50,” but retains right to ignore partners’ presentations they don’t like. Flavorpill ONLY publishes positive recommendations. Sort of blurs the ad/edit divide though Mangan claims it doesn’t.

  9. says

    The question is, asks moderator Andras Szanto (NEA Institute of Classical Music director), Who will pay for arts journalism? Non-profit philanthropic model, or paying marketplace? Getty Trust director Deborah Marrow, and Richard Gringas, CEO of Salon, who cites I.F. Stone as having become a publisher, thus getting “freedom of the press” when in 1973 he acquired a Xerox machine. “Quality journalism does not have to be built on the success of a business model,” he says. “Yeah there are challenges, but I have no doubt about the future.” He’s completely realistic about financial difficulties and it’s about popularity of content to support itself. She’s pointing out there are numerous foundations able to be asked for support, all with their own conditions. Andras nicely keeps asking, Well, but foundations haven’t been splitting off their limited funds to support arts journalism. Gringas doesn’t think arts content is different from other kinds of content in any questions, and that ethics questions are, uh, relative. This is perhaps the least productive sessions of this summit. He has lots of interests in how to use digital media to make it great, but journalists will be doing this because it gives them satisfaction. At least she’s not sure people — artists, journalists — are MORE creative when they’re hungry. Both agree new media is at a beginning.
    The entire 4 hour summit is being archived. Next up: The Future of Music Coalition holds a summit that includes a music journalism session on Tuesday, Oct. 6 — I’ll be there (on the panel)