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'A National Summit on Arts Journalism' convenes

October 2, 2009 |  5:14 pm

NAJP I spent the morning at "A National Summit on Arts Journalism," held for an invited audience of about 200 at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and also streamed live on the Internet. A prior commitment meant that I missed the final roundtable, "The Business of Arts Journalism" (perhaps a blessing in disguise?). But here are two quick thoughts on the proceedings:

First, as expected, the event was slightly mistitled. It was actually "A National Summit on Internet Arts Journalism," since journalism that originates on and for the Web was pretty much all that was considered. Print publishing, as far as the summit went, is as quaint as a medieval manuscript. And in some ways the Web's potential emerged as a grass-roots version of corporate television, rarely very comfortable with considering the arts.

Second, the program was heavy on the Web as a platform for interactive audience participation, institutionally generated arts information, public relations and event promotion, social networking around the arts and so on. National Arts Journalism Program head Doug McLennan, who co-organized the summit with USC's Sasha Anawalt, said some of the projects chosen for discussion "aren't technically journalism" -- which was perhaps the understatement of the day.

Those that were journalism, even by the loosest definition, tended toward soft news, features and opinion -- all essential components of the topic. However, nowhere to be seen (unless it somehow came up in the business roundtable) were areas such as hard news, longer-form reporting and even investigation, conventionally considered. The omission was odd, but at least a necessary discussion has been opened.

A thorough overview of the program is here.

-- Christopher Knight