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May 14, 2006

The Issue Isn't Blogs


While there are a couple of political blogs I read daily, I rarely read blogs on the arts, mostly due to time constraints. Friends will recommend pieces to me, serving the sort of function that editors otherwise might. I haven't the slightest interest in combing through all that stuff. Plenty of smart pieces inevitably make their way to any reasonably motivated person these days, and that's as much as anyone really needs. Search for more as your time permits. My sense is that the relationship of worthwhile stuff to bad is probably about the same in blogs as in the mainstream media -- about ten percent of it is worth looking at.
Much as I like Depeche Mode, I'd sooner shoot myself than read fifty short reviews of their latest CD by DM obsessives. If that's the future of arts journalism, best of luck to all.
Similarly, the notion that editors are combing the blogs for the next generation of arts journalists is hilarious -- even moreso if it's true. Blogging can be fun, I'm sure, but I wouldn't give up that WSJ gig.
People should obviously do the best and strongest work they can, regardless of the medium in which it appears. Somewhere in here, the notion of getting paid for this work ought to be addressed. The disappearance of outlets and the downward pressure on rates seem to me the most disturbing aspects of the past couple of years.

Posted by at May 14, 2006 7:17 PM


I like reading art blogs because the blogosphere creates a mini community where people have the same interests. I don't think blogs replace arts journalism (except for a handful, like Tyler Green's, which really ARE arts journalism). They're more like commentary on mainstream media coverage -- the on-line equivalent of all-night bull sessions in the dorm.

Posted by: Lisa Hunter at May 14, 2006 9:04 PM

Your DM comment proves the opposite point than I think you intend. There's a vast creative output that IS of interest to people, but which, for whatever reason, does not enjoy the attentions of the traditional/paid/mainstream/old media editors.

There are 50 Depeche Mode obsessives discussing the album online precisely BECAUSE it got little/no coverage in publications like Rolling Stone.

This dynamic plays out all over the place for older, now-non-hot creatives of all kinds as well as for the discovery, filtering & audience-building process for new artists. I cannot keep track anymore of the number of bands, artists, trends, musicals, or whatever that were 'discovered' by print & tv folk from blogs.

Posted by: greg.org at May 15, 2006 5:32 PM

Depeche Mode has been making records for 25 years or so now. The notion that failing to cover them at this point is some sort of failure of nerve is a little silly, worthy though they might be. Now that they have the technology to do so, those 50 people would be having the same conversation if every media outlet in the country had written about the group -- and why not? It's just not of any conceivable interest to anyone who doesn't share their obsession.
As for the other infinite number of groups "discovered" in blogs, it's a similar thing. They've been brought to the attention of equally niche audiences. Again, there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not exactly blowing up the spot -- unless, that is, you believe that such audiences are inherently superior to mass audiences, which I don't.

Posted by: Anthony DeCurtis at May 16, 2006 5:37 AM

But that also seems to be based on the mode of criticism where large-scale circulation media like RS annoint or comment on mass audience trends. Obviously, you're vested in that, but there are plenty of people who reject that approach, whether they're obsessives or niches, or so-called trendspotters or whatever; they're groups whose interests and POV's are not shared by (the editors of) mass publications/media. So while mass-oriented critics are welcome to consider their opinions and tastes superior to do so BECAUSE it's mass seems silly to me, too.

Posted by: Greg at May 16, 2006 11:52 AM

From Anthony:
Agree pretty much on all. Personally, I guess I always wanted to do both. I wanted to reach a big audience in big outlets -- it seemed exciting and fun, and I have no less of an ego (maybe more, who knows?) than anybody else. But I also value the opportunity to address more specific audiences whose tastes I either share or want to discuss. It would be too condescending about work that means a great deal to me to simply say that the mass stuff underwrites my ability to do the niche stuff (academic journals, contributions to books that have tiny advances, lower-budget periodicals, etc.), but it's kind of worked out that way.
I believe that the great gift of the Internet has been to provide communities for people whose interests in whatever areas of their lives are not addressed by the mainstream. That's unassailably a virtue. But it comes with certain problems -- fragmentation, white noise, absence of agreed-upon values. In those regards, of course, cyberculture doesn't so much challenge mainstream culture as reflect it (the white noise of advertising, demographic fragments determined/created by marketers, identity politics, etc.).
But that's the way culture works all the time -- its currents never just flow one way -- and those secondary consequences don't diminish the primary contributions the Internet has made -- in this case, to our national discussion about the arts. The trick, as always, is to try to get as much of the good as possible while diminishing the bad. I find, however, that most discussions of these issues don't address those complexities. (This one seems pretty good, though.) People are pushed to one side or another -- one more unconscious reflection of the larger culture, I think.
Sorry to go on so long, but your comments caused me to sharpen some of my ideas -- or, to be more honest, my feelings -- about all this.

Posted by: Anthony DeCurtis at May 16, 2006 11:54 AM

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