Most people who haven't been living under a rock are aware of the newspaper industry's precipitous decline. And even the least media savvy surface dwellers could guess that this sorry state of affairs has disproportionately impacted arts journalism. In comparison with the one in four newsroom jobs that have been lost in the last decade, approximately half of all arts writing staff positions and beats have disappeared, according to estimates byArts Journal editor Douglas McLennan.
Aside from us self-interested types who like this job and hope to continue doing it, why should you care about this most impressive of vanishing acts? In short, because the health of the arts media has an impact on the health of the arts ecosystem as a whole.
Acknowledging this long obvious truth, the National Endowment for the Art has teamed up with the Knight Foundation to offer the Community Arts Journalism Challenge: a competition to create new arts journalism models in eights cities. (The Knight Foundation and the NEA also provide grants for projects at NPR and many public radio stations.) Drawn from the 233 applications received last summer, three winners — the Charlotte News Alliance, Detroit's CriticCar, and Philadelphia's Art Attack — were announced and awarded $80,000 to launch their ideas. As their content begins to flow, the projects will be testing new ways the forces of media can work with each other and their communities. It won't be enough to make arts journalism jobs magically reappear, but the three projects should go a little ways towards helping us learn some sorely needed new tricks. I asked representatives from each of the three winning teams how their project will fit in — and change — their city.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.