Chris Jones

A vote for reinventing arts journalism

Instead of fighting over the remains, arts writers need to renovate their practice

Somehow it always seems weird for an arts writer to write about writing about art, at least to me. Shouldn’t I just be writing about art? There’s plenty out there awaiting my distortions, er, attention.

But ArtsWatch itself was begun from observations about writing about art, so maybe the whole meta- thing isn’t so indulgent? The primary observation I’m talking about: that longer, well-prepared stories (essays, criticism, narratives, news, and their hybrids) for a general audience would disappear completely from smaller cities like Portland, if the drift of the media continued in its current direction.

Little did I know two-and-a-half years ago when ArtsWatch first appeared online how quickly things would erode, both here and in the rest of the country. Arts writing for the general public, generally pursued by newspapers and general interest magazines, has continued to contract, almost to the vanishing point. You can still find excellent arts writing in speciality publications and blogs (we try to link you to some of it here and on social media), but generally those don’t take the local arts scene into account.

In that context, I think it’s important for the media, specifically ArtsWatch, to talk about its own condition and to mark changes and experiments in the culture that concern it. One recent experiment: The decision of the Chicago Symphony to create an online magazine about its activities with “certified” arts journalists (actually, there’s no such certification) writing and assembling the stories.

The Double Octuple newspaper press, state of the art in 1911

The Double Octuple newspaper press, state of the art in 1911

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