“The future of arts journalism?”: In response to the decline of features, previews, and general arts coverage, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra launched CSO Sounds & Stories, an “online multimedia magazine” promoted as the first “Journalism Site by a Major American Orchestra.” But this publication is neither journalism nor capable of upholding the independence or editorial standards of any small town newspaper.
(Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune, December 27, 2013.)
A response: Jones is flat out wrong in two regards. One, this type of in-house promotional material never claimed to be the future of arts journalism — though it may well be the future (and a well-paying one) for many arts journalists, including the seasoned professionals Jones notes in his article. In this future, unemployed print veterans ply the same trade (how is it not journalism again?) and use the same skills they once honed writing for “independent” publications like the Trib.
Two, it is journalism. These newly co-opted former journalists won’t be writing PR or fluff pieces. Instead, and perhaps inspired by the open attitude of still-working journalists like Jones, they will strive to maintain a degree of pride and integrity in their writing, which will largely consist of fact-supported features and hard-hitting, question-driven interviews. Surely, Jones is not implying that features and interviews at a sponsor-published journal don’t count as journalism just because it’s an in-house publication, especially if they’re conducted in the same manner that the writer would operate in at a more independent vehicle. Otherwise, the features and interviews at any college publication or alumni magazine would not count as journalism, a claim that Jones would not endorse. Unless Jones means that only arts criticism counts as arts journalism or that investigative writing only counts as arts journalism. He is right in that the CSO publication will probably not engage in either of those two paths, but neither would The Mennonite, a magazine written by journalists practicing journalism, which seeks to provide reader content (i.e., journalistic stories) about Mennonite life.