Camille LeFevre on teaching and writing arts journalism

Final Projects: Inspiring Innovation in Arts Journalism

People truly want to engage with ideas and ways of synthesizing their arts experience and their lives.” Steve Winn, from “Taking the Tweed out of the Arts Journalism Wardrobe,” http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=54887

Last week, I left my students with that inspiring quote from an article they’re reading for discussion on Monday.

Two weeks left of JOUR 4990: Covering the Arts: New Media, New Paradigms from Criticism to Communications. And the students are crafting their final online projects. To further inspire them, I’ve invited Alan Berks (playwright and originator of mnplaylist.com) and Scott Stulen (project manager of mnartists.org), to visit the class and discuss how and why they started their sites, the kind of content they have, how their sites fill an important niche in arts coverage, and their demographic.

I’m eager to hear how the students have honed and focused their project proposals! And how Alan and Scott’s insights and experience will provide them with new ideas and/or content!


December 5, 2010 Posted by | From the Classroom | 1 Comment

Week of December 6

In addition to teaching this week, here’s what’s on my writing docket:

A recommendation letter for a colleague (we’re working on a book together, and we’ve presented papers together at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conferences)

An article for Architecture Minnesota

An A-List item on visual art for City Pages

New synopsis for super-secret project (I truly can’t tell anyone what this is)

A meeting with Ananya Dance Theatre on our media relations plan for the next year

Slow week!

December 5, 2010 Posted by | The Writing Docket | Leave a comment

More on Minnpost

Late last week, I announced on Facebook that Minnpost.com was relieving the arts writers of their duties. No more criticism (reviews), no more previews. No big surprise actually; Minnpost is clearly more of a “newsletter” (one of my colleague’s words) for politicos and public policy wonks. Still, I was one of Minnpost’s first writers. And the change marked the end of my career as a paid dance critic with a regular gig (for now anyway).

Initially, Minnpost  requested lengthy, well-researched posts on dance in the Twin Cities (my beat), and I was happy to do my part. The pay wasn’t too bad. And I was thrilled to contribute to another publication on dance. After I quit the Star Tribune as freelance dance critic (that’s another story), Minnpost became my primarily dance writing gig.

Then last summer, the editors changed the format: We were to contribute no more than 8 items a month (for miniscule pay) in covering our beats. About the same time, Arts Arena (the arts tab/format) started migrating to the bottom of Minnpost’s lengthy home page. While they allowed me to start covering architecture/design (for which I was grateful; last year was abysmal financially, and every extra hundred bucks made a huge difference for me), the end was in sight.

After I posted the news, Marianne Combs (over at MPR) started her own discussion on the topic on Facebook. The discussion thread included back and forth on how arts journalism is becoming more promotional. Here’s what I contributed to that thread:

I teach arts journalism at the U (have for several years), and one of our talking points in my current class is the fact (yes, fact) that promotion (PR) and much of arts journalism today is completely intertwined/interchangeable. Few paying outlets for arts journalism are interested in criticism anymore (thank god for mnartists.org and Susannah). Ad revenue (for publications) and arts coverage are also interdependent. The ongoing dumbing down of our culture has resulted in fewer general readers curious at all about or knowledgable about criticism, the role of criticism and the value of critical thinking and engagement (thank you, Charles) with art.

I’m glossing over the general points here, of course, the minnpost situation is indicative of all of the above: Reasons given to me for relieving specialists of their positions were: not enough page views (duh, minnpost buries its arts coverage at the bottom of its lengthy page); some writers weren’t writing anymore (duh, the pay was abysmal); the most read post on “arts” lately was one about a celebrity in dt mpls. and so on.

First responses from my dance colleagues at performing-arts institutions? they’re pulling their ads.

December 5, 2010 Posted by | On the Media | Leave a comment