Conor Friedersdorf (blogging at the Atlantic for Sullivan) notes the splintering off of much sports journalism (and, hence, readership) from major newspapers. In other words: niche journalism foils the dailies once again. Many, many newspaper sales still depend on their sports sections to sell papers, so when readers turn to ESPN channels and websites (now tailoring to local media markets) it picks off eyeballs from dead-tree land.
Now I'm not saying there's any parallel with arts sections. On the contrary. "We" are depending on those sports fans, too, to subsidize theatre coverage. (No players, no plays.) But Friedersdorf's read on the "disaggregation of newspaper content" reveals some wide-reaching implications, I think.
The disaggregation of newspaper content is an inevitability. Was there civic utility in the fact that a guy going for the sports page happened to see what his local mayor was up to by virtue of flipping through the sections? Sure, but that is a rather small matter. As I see it, "important" news is going to have to stand on its own going forward, and the challenge for those who care about journalism is to nudge the culture toward valuing it properly once the "subsidies" -- the advertising and the sports section and style coverage and all the rest -- aren't available anymore.I guess what I take away is that...maybe its time to embrace this "disaggregation" for arts coverage. We've already contemplated the bleak scenario of a theatre and theatre companies without newspapers to advertise, promote and cover them. But why wait until it's too late? It's time, maybe, for arts coverage--the kind of good, rigorous, analytical, and truly critical arts coverage featuring many different voices that's already been absent a long time from our "general interest" media--to go solo.
Over the last couple of decades, amidst the rise of the conglomerate media, we saw the theatre-only publication, for instance, vanish. (Remember Theater Week?) But now its time has come again, perhaps. It's only the medium of a print magazine that may be dead. But not the desire for the content.