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The State Of Arts Journalism

by Stephen Becker 17 Jan 2019 5:36 PM

During a recent episode of Think, a panel of North Texas arts writers considers the present and future of the form


In the last decade, newspapers both nationally and in North Texas have substantially cut the number of arts and culture writers they employ. Wednesday on Think, Krys Boyd talked about the relationship between arts journalism and the arts community with SMU journalism professor of practice Lauren Smart, Theater Jones editor Mark Lowry, artist and critic Christopher Blay, and Jerome Weeks with KERA’s Art and Seek. Below are some highlight from the conversation (then check out the podcast to hear the whole show).

On why newspapers view arts writers as dispensable …

Smart: “I think for the most part, we’re talking about clicks and numbers and audience. And the internet has demonstrated that the audience for arts journalism is smaller than a lot of the other areas of the paper. … It’s a business — at least that’s the excuse that’s been offered.”

On the scope of their writing …

Weeks: “No art form exists in a vacuum. If you’re just discussing art referring to art, it becomes insular. It’s being aware that we’re living in this cultural and historic moment, and artists are thinking about it. If you ignore that and discuss this totally as an abstract, aesthetic project, you’re de-naturing it.”

On the influence they might have on artists …

Lowry: “I don’t think it’s our job to tell the artists what they’re doing – right or wrong – or how they should be doing it. It’s our job to communicate to our readers – to the audience – about the art. Contextualize it, let them know it’s happening – and that there’s a lot happening – and hopefully get them to go see art or consider it.”

On the lack of diversity among arts writers …

Blay: Women and minorities have historically been excluded from expressing these opinions in the public sphere. It’s always been a problem, and it’s only getting incrementally better. And the way to change that isn’t putting the onus on women and minorities to seek out these positions. It’s actually on the institutions to go and — not diversity for diversity’s sake — but this idea that the world looks completely different than what the institution’s makeup is, and in order to be as effective as possible, there needs to be as many voices as possible reflecting what’s out there.”