Camille LeFevre on teaching and writing arts journalism

Welcome to Mélange

Welcome to Mélange (working title), a work-in-progress blog about teaching and practicing arts journalism. My colleagues are already asking, “What took you so long?” Well, I’m an old-fashioned arts journalist: I built my freelance (free, as in not tied down to a 9-5 job; not free, as in working for zero money) career getting paid for my experience, insights and expertise. So writing without pay has never been an attractive, nor a financial option.

But, as we’re all painfully aware, the profession and discipline of arts journalism has evolved radially in the last year. (Really, significant changes began five or so years ago.) And in that time, I’ve also been teaching arts journalism and innovating–at the urging of Al Tims, the Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the U of M–new courses in arts journalism that explore and test the boundaries of the profession today. At the core of all my courses is critical thinking and writing. That’s essentially what I teach. Along with trends and opportunities in arts journalism.

In my current seminar, for example, titled “Covering the Arts: New Media, New Paradigms from Criticism to Communications,” we’ve been exploring where professional journalism (the department “track” selected by student reporters) and strategic communications (the “track” selected by students wishing to go into PR) overlap, conflict and enhance each other. We began the course practicing criticism.

Then we moved into PR. We created a blog for the Southern Theater’s new Southern Songbook music series–http://southernsongbook.tumblr.com–which was a tremendous success! And the students produced guerilla marketing campaigns and posts for the Northrop blog in advance of a performance by Paul Taylor Dance Company, which was again, a tremendous success. My sincere thanks to these organizations for partnering so well with us!!

The students final projects (which I assigned to my students last semester, as well): create a website or blog that addresses changes in arts journalism (which we discuss throughout the semester) by fulfilling a topical niche, and addressing that topic with an assortment of arts writing, whether criticism, previews or other articles. Key word: intention. The project must have a reason or purpose for existing.

This teaching experience got me thinking about creating my own blog, in order to more thoroughly practice what I teach. After researching (as I ask my students to) other blogs on teaching and practicing arts journalism, and discovering none, I found my niche. And as venues for paid (however paltry) arts journalism continue to disappear, I’ve been encouraged to write a blog to keep my distinctive voice, insights and expertise (I’m paraphrasing my colleagues, not tooting my own horn) in the critical mix.

Please bear with me as I explore this new media, the degree of transparency with which I’m comfortable, and the artistic disciplines in which I’ll delve. And please, spread the word, follow me, and ask me to follow you. All my best and thanks. Camille LeFevre

Camille LeFevre, arts journalist and college professor


December 3, 2010 - Posted by | Welcome!

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