Arts Journalism Next
Journalism Next fanned across Los Angeles to interview people who tell stories and convey information in new ways — people who aren’t necessarily close to arts journalism. We pumped their brains for ideas and techniques we might be able to apply to the work we do. We’ve organized what we’ve learned into three categories. Click on the linked text below to learn more about who we spoke with and what they had to say.
We’ve generally behaved like feature writers and critics. We need to be more like reporters: Develop sources and learn how things work behind the curtain of consolidated media companies that control information and ideas. The trickle-down theory didn’t work in economics and it doesn’t work in arts journalism. People who aren’t already encountering your work generally won’t, which means if you want to reach new communities, you have to build the pipelines.
Master new media. No, seriously. This isn’t about being ordered to use Twitter or Facebook, this is about recognizing that both emerging culture-makers and huge cultural monoliths are using an array of new media tools. In order to report on arts and culture effectively, you must have a handle on what’s going on.
Think beyond the arts section; think about being on page one. Remember that you can control your message, but you cannot control when people are ready to hear it. You cannot judge the effectiveness of an experiment by how quickly it’s absorbed. Question your premise. It may make your story bigger and more meaningful. Be entrepreneurial. Celebrate admitting your mistakes. Drawing from sources outside the expected and anticipated may give our stories deeper cultural relevance. Make connections with popular culture — not to cheapen our work, but to situate it.
Arts journalism could use more populism. Don’t assume everyone cares about what we care about, and remind yourself constantly of that. Want to reach younger, untraditional audiences who don’t pay attention to your media? Then you have to aggressively come to them on their terms and on their turf. Think about using language differently. Speak in the language of your audience. People don’t necessarily know what’s newsworthy in their own communities. Look beyond your community and sell your stories to people who might not be oriented to them. Also, why “drunk artist vs. Elke Sommer”? Heh.