The issue of how, exactly journalism should cover art in (a) the digital age and (b) the traditional-media-outlet-profit-plunge age has been a topic of some discussion recently in Toronto. Last week, I attended a panel on this topic sponsored by the Canadian Journalism Foundation that I'd posted on here previously.
In the wake of the panel, various reports have been posted. JSource posted a fairly cut and dried summary that reminded me of how questions of box office-vs-critic value had gotten caught up in the digital discussion. View on Canadian Art also posted some notes that reflected, again, the fairly wide ranging nature of the dicussion, all the way from "do critics matter?" to "does anybody make money blogging?" Mondoville brought the pointed (and at times deserved) megasnark, while Socialite (who pointed out to the panel in person that Ebert is a great example of a mainstreamer gone respectedly digital) found the panel basically old-folks/non-networkedy.
For my part, I did find it regrettable that most of the panel members didn't seem to have much substantive experience online, and it showed in their questions and comments. Of course, they all brought many years of experience in print and traditional broadcast TV, which is great--that's what a lot of younger online writers can't bring to such a panel, and perhaps it reflects the experience of many members of old-guard (or as they called it, "legacy") journalism.
In any case, one thing I had hoped the panel might touch on (but didn't) are some of the few initiatives where newspapers are (against all logic, some might say) expanding their arts coverage online and elsewhere. The New York Observer's expansion online looks like this and does have a bit of a bloggy feel, linking out to other media stories as well as providing original reviews and reportage (most old-school media tend to hit a wall with the aggregation thing).
Also of interest on this front (albeit not, perhaps, as critical as writers like myself might like) is the Washington Post's Real Art DC project. In this project, artists are invited to upload their work to the Post's Real Art DC site. Then, from May to October, the Post's critics will choose ten artists to receive a studio visit writeup online. Readers will then vote for best artist, who will receive a profile in print and online.
In a way, the Post's contest reinforces the old "print is best" value dynamic, but uses some of the free content of artists to achieve its ends (and inch up pageviews). I don't think this initiative is necessarily the answer to arts journalism's woes online--as did come out at the panel, much of those woes are financial, whether in print or elsewhere--but it would have been nice if the panel had sought examples like it out.
On related fronts, could you convince a newspaper to expand its art coverage online or in print? If so, how?
Image of old-timey papers from Bernar McFadden