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March 26, 2009

Doing More With Less, Shark-Jumping Edition

Want to follow what's going on with the arts in your community? Best way these days often isn't the local newspaper. As the arts drain out of the local broadsheet, blogs are now often doing a better job at arts coverage than the daily newspaper. This trend I note (with sadness) as I look for arts news for ArtsJournal.com. Classical music in Miami or the Bay Area gets a lot more attention in Lawrence Johnson's South Florida Classical Review or on the San Francisco Classical Voice. The Miami Herald no longer has a music critic (a role Johnson used to play), and while the San Francisco Chronicle's Joshua Kosman is one of the best music critics we have, he can't match the volume of reviews and music news over at SFCV.

If you were interested in following the debacle of the Columbus Symphony last fall as the orchestra looked like it would fail, blogs were a better way to keep up than local Ohio newspapers, which largely trailed the pack.

And over on ArtsJournal visual art bloggers Tyler Green and Lee Rosenbaum, and now former NYT arts reporter Judith Dobrzynski routinely break stories before the local and national press.


mapplethorpe.jpg

Case in point. This week the Experience Music Project in Seattle announced it has hired Christina Orr-Cahall as its new director. Orr-Cahall was most recently director of Florida's Norton Museum. It's interesting that EMP, a music museum after all (with a Science Fiction Museum attached) has turned to a director who comes from the art world rather than the music world. Still. Seattle's local press dutifully reported the appointment.

But it took Tyler Green, blogging from DC, to make the connection that Orr-Cahall had been the director of the Corcoran Museum back in 1989:

She was the Corcoran director who cancelled the Robert Mapplethorpe show. The Corcoran -- and in some ways the art world -- still hasn't recovered. (Orr-Cahall later resigned under fire.)

The Mapplethorpe firestorm was at the epi-center of the Culture Wars of the 90s and Orr-Cahall was at or near the center of it. So, as Tyler points out, this quote from the Seattle Times might have had more scrutiny if the Times had a real arts reporter:

"I really am interested in the whole visionary side, the fact that it pushes boundaries, that it's experiential," Orr-Cahall said of the Seattle museum. "I see interesting ways in which [the museum] can grow and develop."

As we lose more and more arts journalists in the traditional press, the coverage can't help but decline. Yet it's interesting to me that when some publications are criticized because they can no longer keep up the level of reporting after staff and budget cuts, they act as if 1. it's not true, and 2. it's rude for pointing it out. There is a correlation between resources and quality of coverage. There just is. When the local paper cut the broadsheet width by two inches and pitched it as a benefit to readers because it was easier to hold... I get the whole doing-more-with-less thing. But some of this has jumped the shark.


March 26, 2009 1:00 PM | | Comments (0)

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