Should news organizations foster greater transparency about their arts coverage?

photoI am conducting a small but important piece of research in order to find out how members of the arts community feel about how media organizations go about deciding what arts stories to cover.
Here is the link to the survey:
The aim is to discover how people in the arts view the typically secretive internal processes that go on at media organizations when it comes to deciding what arts stories deserve coverage and to what extent there might be an advantage to being more open about editorial views and processes.
I plan to use the survey results to help make important decisions about the editorial strategy at Colorado Public Radio, where I am in the process of launching a new arts bureau.
To that end, I am asking many Colorado culture workers to spend five minutes of their day answering eight multiple choice questions — most of which require a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
I would greatly welcome additional input on these questions from the ArtsJournal community.
Here is the link to the survey once again:
Please complete the survey by end of day on Friday 10 January.
Thanks for your help!
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  1. says

    This is a good idea and I wish you every success with it. Of course, most of the topics raised in the survey are much too complex to answer with a simple yes or no, but your effort to create a dialog with the arts community regarding these topics is noble and refreshing. I would answer some of the questions very differently depending on which new organization were in question. I wish the survey were more detailed and extensive. And I wonder if there should also be a “I don’t know choice.”

    So many arts groups compete for a piece of the media pie. How can one possibly decide who should be covered and who not? Sometimes editors really do have selfish, unprofessional agendas, but the bigger problem is there just isn’t enough space for all that should be covered. It would be especially beneficial if there were more local arts coverage. Maybe blogs are a part of this, even if just about everyone loves NPR and its local affiliates.

    • Chloe Veltman says

      thanks william for your thoughtful feedback. i think an ‘i dont know’ category would have been good to add on reflection. i did want to keep things as simple as possible at this stage of the game though. just starting my investigation…

  2. says

    For an interesting example of carefully calculated bias in arts coverage see yesterday’s article in the NYT by the music section editor, James Oestreich, about the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Years concert:

    For years, Oestreich has been an apologist for the orchestra even though it is known for its exclusion of women and Asians. I can’t deconstruct his article here, but perhaps a few informed readers will note the facts he excludes and his calculated wording and its intentions. The Vienna Phil agreed to admit women in 1997, and admitted its first non-harpist woman only in 2007, and only because the Internet allowed people to circumvent the silence of the established arts media and report the full truth about the VPO.

    The protests raised by the Internet brought a small number of women into the orchestra, but it still the only major orchestra in the Western world that does not have a single member who is fully Asian and has an Asian family name. (About a quarter of the students at Vienna’s University of Music for the last 40 years have been Asian.) Note how Oestreich carefully rationalizes so much of the orchestra’s racist history, and how he does not mention a word about its exclusion of Asians.

  3. says

    I did not answer question # 4 because it does not take into account the advice given to an arts editor by her writers. That is the most determining factor — her boots on the ground, so to speak. Its the writers enthusiams, not the editor, who most influence an editor’s decisions. After all, she can’t get you to write about something you think has little value. Of course, we don’t always get our way, but we do carry a lot of weight. So your questions are not skewed correctly. Transparency is not the issue. That which is deemed review-worthy by the arts writers is most often what determines coverage, so I think the mystery surrounding editorial decisions does not rest on the editor’s shoulders alone, and the whine from the arts community about it, while understandable, is warrantless.

    • Chloe Veltman says

      hi merilyn
      you arise a very good point. reporters are obviously a big part of the editorial decision-making process. i am starting a bigger process here and wanted to keep things as simple as possible at this stage. thanks for completing some of the survey. please feel free to pass the link on to other people in your network.

  4. Gary Tucker says

    Of course every arts PR person is going to want more transparency from arts editors about their coverage, but that is not the responsibility of an arts editor or a media organization: It is to get readers/listeners/viewers. They choose to cover what they think their subscribers want to read/watch/listen to, based on the writing/reporting staff’s input. (What Merilyn Jackson said, above.) Arts coverage that gets no response is quickly going to fade away. (Which is why local TV newscasts never cover the arts: Omit the sports portion of the evening news? They’ll hear about it loud and clear. Skip a museum opening? The sound of crickets.)

    Best of luck to you with your launch of an arts bureau with CPR! However your task will be not to appease Colorado culture workers, but to develop a following among your public radio listenership.

    William Osborne is correct: There is never going to be enough air-time or column inches to cover all of the arts and culture events out there. Our wish is that we just get SOME coverage, some of the time! I don’t care how the editors reach their decision, as long as they actually choose to do something other than give more space to the latest movie grosses or celebrity marriage.