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Enquirer to Local Artists: We'll Do Better (Maybe)

By Steve Ramos · January 15th, 2003 · Arts Beat
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Early January is the time for New Year's resolutions to do things better. What other explanation is there for a Jan. 5 blurb, "The Media's Message," in The Cincinnati Enquirer?

The item was part of a staff-written story in the Sunday Tempo section, "25 Forces That Will Shape Culture in 2003." In this particular blurb, the paper appears to be announcing something that local artists, arts patrons and anyone interested in Cincinnati's cultural health have been begging for for years -- bigger and better arts coverage in our stalwart morning daily.

The media capsule, ranked fifth of 25, bemoans the mainstream media's lack of arts coverage: "Surveys tell us that arts and culture matter to people, but driving that message home is a losing battle without the media. In 2003, arts and culture is going to make news. Choices about how to report the news -- as isolated incidents or in the context of something a lot bigger than a Bengals season in terms of attendance, local economy and community empowerment -- will make a difference."

The day after the paper's quasi-announcement of expanded arts coverage, some friends and I did something we haven't done in months: We talked about something we read in The Enquirer. Most of our chitchat qualified as put-downs and embellished rumor-mongering. Hey, we're a fairly sarcastic bunch. Early January is the time for New Year's resolutions to do things better. What other explanation is there for a Jan. 5 blurb, "The Media's Message," in The Cincinnati Enquirer?

The item was part of a staff-written story in the Sunday Tempo section, "25 Forces That Will Shape Culture in 2003." In this particular blurb, the paper appears to be announcing something that local artists, arts patrons and anyone interested in Cincinnati's cultural health have been begging for for years -- bigger and better arts coverage in our stalwart morning daily.

The media capsule, ranked fifth of 25, bemoans the mainstream media's lack of arts coverage: "Surveys tell us that arts and culture matter to people, but driving that message home is a losing battle without the media. ... In 2003, arts and culture is going to make news. Choices about how to report the news -- as isolated incidents or in the context of something a lot bigger than a Bengals season in terms of attendance, local economy and community empowerment -- will make a difference."

The day after the paper's quasi-announcement of expanded arts coverage, some friends and I did something we haven't done in months: We talked about something we read in The Enquirer. Most of our chitchat qualified as put-downs and embellished rumor-mongering. Hey, we're a fairly sarcastic bunch.

"It's just like The Enquirer to dangle a carrot on a stick without any intention of delivering," said one artist friend of mine.

"They don't even mention CityBeat's arts coverage in the capsule, but I hear they're planning on rolling out their own version of an alternative newspaper," said another friend, laughing. "Can you imagine what that would be like?"

After a good laugh, we decided to be more serious. After all, better arts coverage in the morning daily is something we all want. So, in honor of The Enquirer's cryptic ray of hope to area artists and arts administrators who've been begging for additional coverage, I decided to make some of my own unlikely resolutions.

I vow to write only positive things about people and institutions in 2003, embracing a vacant, praise-only mode of off-yellow journalism. And I promise to give those who I've criticized in the past a shot at writing a guest column. Sure, Arts Beat is my opinion column, but that doesn't mean I have to be greedy about it.

My short list of honorary Arts Beaters includes some of our most enlightened citizens. Newly elected Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich will describe his love for velvet paintings. Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis explains why polka is America's real "classical" music. Finally, in a CityBeat exclusive, Citizens for Community Values honcho Phil Burress announces his plans for the Above-Ground Freedom Center for the Arts, a family friendly museum for his private collection of Archie comics, with Betty and Veronica's unnatural breasts rubbed out.

Finally, in honor of The Enquirer's Jan. 5 quasi-announcement, I pledge to share with their staffers all the information, contacts and stories that land on my desk here at CityBeat. My first tip is to share a copy of The Visual Art Critic: A Survey of Art Critics at General Interest News Publications in America. The report was published last year by the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Like the Enquirer blurb, the report tells us in great detail that popular news media fails to provide "sufficient exposure for artists, art institutions and the ideas that govern their work."

I'll also send them the Jan. 12 editorial by playwright Nicholas Hytner, the new director of the National Theater, in London's Guardian newspaper. In his essay he talks about the danger of solely promoting investment in the arts for the purpose of cultural tourism. He also criticizes media that attack symphony orchestras and theater companies for not drawing enough young audiences. In his opinion, there are no good or bad audiences.

It's a provocative viewpoint -- a topic I can't want to see addressed in the new-and-more-artsy Enquirer.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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