Is it possible to start a journalism movement? On thinking about Tobi Tobias
An email written by Tobi Tobias just ping-ed into my in-box, announcing that she and all other arts freelancers have been let go from Bloomberg News. Will we get used to this decimation of critics? What are we supposed to do? Tobias doesn't think we ought to take it no more, which got me thinking about a class I attended of director Peter Sellar's earlier this week, "Art as Moral Action" at UCLA. His guest speaker was Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA. Josh told the story of a lucky friend of his who had a 15-minute audience with Obama in which she pressed for changes of a nature I really can't remember. But the point is this: At the end of the 15 minutes, Obama asked her, "Where's the movement? Show me the movement. If you have a movement behind you, then I can make good decisions."
Hmmmmm. Tobias is lighting the match. Are journalists ready to pull together, get organized and march on Washington, raise money through social media mechanisms cent-by-cent and build a narrative? Is this possible? Journalists are by nature fractious, doubtful and independent. Followers we ain't, but the stakes are high.
Tobias writes: "I wish we could, as a group, find more ways to do the work we love without taking a vow of poverty."
Poverty is real; she is not kidding. Can we get active as a group and find smart, creative ways to continue writing about the art we see, the art we hear, the art that asks questions and keeps our democractic values sharp and attuned -- and be paid? Why does this matter?
Think about it. What will the artists do? What are they doing now? Does informed criticism matter?
I think a good start is sharing the different economic models you come across that are working. Let's start pooling info and also looking at how theaters, music groups, dance companies, musuems and individual artists are adjusting to this new reality. Are there partnerships? Do critics and artists care enough to come together at least to talk? Most artists have been dealing with poverty and lack of recognition and respect far longer than the critics. It wouldn't be the first time we have learned from them -- in fact, that is the way we are most comfortable. Isn't it?
Start the movement, then maybe we can make good decisions.