ArtsJournal is playing host to a group blog leading up to the meeting of the National Arts Journalism Program in Philadelphia and it’s a fascinating clash of old and new views of criticism in the internet age. Terry Teachout, not surprisingly, gives us a ringing endorsement of the new:
Middle-aged print-media critics who want to be read in the age of Web-based journalism must start by recognizing that they’re in direct competition with younger bloggers. If they don’t, they’ll vanish–and most of them will deserve their fate. If I were a newspaper editor, I’d be looking to the blogs for the next generation of critics. What’s more, I’d not only encourage but expect my new young guns to transfer their blogs to my newspaper’s Web site, complete with snark and comments and four-letter words.
Time was when the critics of large-circulation newspapers and magazines were important de facto, regardless of whether or not they had anything original to say. That time is over, and a good thing, too. I know I’m not entitled to be part of the cultural conversation simply by virtue of the fact that I publish in The Wall Street Journal. The only way for critics to “earn their authority” in the age of new media is to be interesting. Nothing less is good enough.
But then we hear this from Anthony DeCurtis of the formerly hip Rolling Stone (whom I tried to hire when I started Entertainment Weekly; he said no):
Much as I like Depeche Mode, I’d sooner shoot myself than read fifty short reviews of their latest CD by DM obsessives. If that’s the future of arts journalism, best of luck to all.
Similarly, the notion that editors are combing the blogs for the next generation of arts journalists is hilarious — even moreso if it’s true. Blogging can be fun, I’m sure, but I wouldn’t give up that WSJ gig.
People should obviously do the best and strongest work they can, regardless of the medium in which it appears. Somewhere in here, the notion of getting paid for this work ought to be addressed. The disappearance of outlets and the downward pressure on rates seem to me the most disturbing aspects of the past couple of years.
I’m amazed that people think that criticism is an entitlement program.
Andras Szanto (who’s also teaching at CUNY’s J-school) argues that the abundance of blogs will lead to gatekeeping again.
The blogsphere today is more or less where the arts were circa 1975. It’s a realm of new opportunities, naÃ¯ve expectations, and faux democracy. It’s smack in the middle of that euphoric moment that every innovative movement goes through before it makes its own peace with the status quo. Back in the seventies, it seemed everything was possible in the art world. Anything could be art and “everyone an artist,” as Beuys proclaimed.
But a funny thing happened on the way to this pluralist nirvana. Three decades later we are seeing an unprecedented institutionalization and commercialization of art. The entry fee into a successful art career is a $60,000 MFA. And while laissez-faire rules, aesthetically speaking, who can doubt that the artists being seen and heard are the ones who have the muscle of major galleries, presenting institutions, and distribution companies behind them. From the cloud of unbounded opportunity has emerged a new ironclad structure, no less selective and, in its own way, constraining than what had come before. To some degree, the very scale and openness of postmodern culture have mandated these new filters and hierarchies. And so it will go with the blogsphere. When the smoke clears, we will be back to listening and trusting a finite number of voices. We will depend on them, and we won’t have time for many more.
I’ll disagree. He assumes that there is still a scarcity of gallery walls. No, there’ll only be a scarcity of money.