Karen McKevitt, on the Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox blog, and sirtorgo, in the comments on this here blog, have both graciously posted a bit of follow-up to the recent critics panel for those of us (like me and Travis Bedard) who couldn’t make it.
First up, sirtorgo did a brief summary that I’m excerpting in this post because nobody ever reads comments:
I am not so naive to have thought that they did not have pressures from editors and dwindling dwindling space. But I had no idea how bad it was…. Almost all of them repeated a refrain of wanting us to ask our audiences to write the papers they work for and talk about the articles they read — whether good or bad. But I just don’t see that happening….
Robert Hurwitt made this great point about online versus print. He said that people who read the paper can be reading an article about a movie or whatever and stumble on a theatre review and possibly become interested. When it is online, in a blog, whatever — people have to go find the article. In other words, people who are already interested in reading about theatre will be the main consumers. And new audiences will continue to shrink, etc.
Oh boy. I wish I had some great ideas about this. But I don’t. I just know how to make good shows.
Karen picked up on this in her first post, which does a quick summary of what happened that night:
Papers are collapsing, and the arts section isn’t the only section that’s getting smaller. All of the sections are getting smaller, all of the news staffs (business and sports included) are being decimated. It seems completely unrealistic to think that we could ever expand coverage in the short term. Yet, it seems equally impossible to come up with a solution to save papers — how many stories have we seen across the blogosphere from Arts Journal to Slate to the papers themselves, etc., on how to do this?
In a fantastic second post, she then submitted some questions that the panel didn’t have time to get to. There are too many to excerpt, making it essential that you go read the post, but one gets to the “this whole thing seems impossible” theme above. “What can theatre companies do to keep arts coverage available?”
Robert Hurwitt: All I can say is that the more the editors are made aware that the readers want more arts coverage, the more likely they are to put resources there….
Jean Schiffman: I can’t think of anything other than encouraging your audiences to write letters to the press in response to reviews (or lack thereof)….
Chloe Veltman: Encourage foundations about providing philanthropic support to people who write about the arts, e.g., bloggers. For example, artists who serve on the TBA CA$H grant committee might consider providing bloggers and podcasters with support. Some small efforts are being made…e.g., Andy Warhol foundation paying $30,000 to each of a number of bloggers in the visual arts (so far no one to my knowledge has stepped up to the plate for theatre journalists or other disciplines).
The more I stew about this, the more I end up in the whole “I can’t think of anything; I wish I had some great ideas but I don’t” camp. So it’s slightly encouraging that Chloe brings up at least a little something that I had never thought of and that just might be a start.
But overall, it’s still kinda depressing, which might be why people have yet to jump in over at Chatterbox. But I hope people do; Karen said, “There’s certainly a lot here to discuss, and if the conversation really takes off, I’ll be writing new posts on it,” and we definitely need new posts — and new ideas.