Camille LeFevre on teaching and writing arts journalism

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

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