What is your attention worth?

Why support arts journalism in 2023?

3 minute read
Sunset facing west on a South Philly street: pearly gray clouds give way to a golden sun where all the horizon lines converge

“They act nice, but they aren’t your friends, and there’s no reason for them to portray you sympathetically if portraying you as a freak show will get more attention.” That was a comment about journalists in a social-media thread I started on behalf of a local reporter looking for sources on an important story this year.

Journalists are disingenuous, calculating sensationalists, and they’re only in it for the money and fame. Never trust the media. I’ve absorbed a lot of comments to this effect from peers recently, and it feels like a previously right-wing phenomenon (see “murder the media” spray-painted on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021) has bled into the center and left.

Does that mean uncritical acceptance of media narratives? No. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been infuriated by lazy, recycled, inaccurate, propagandist opinions and reporting in top outlets like The New York Times or the Washington Post. Media is becoming more corporatized and compressed, more and more outlets swallowed up by giant companies or billionaires who don’t care about the fourth estate or our democracy. Local papers are dying across the country and nothing but a riot of social-media posts and national pundits are left to help community members make sense of who’s in power, and why and how.

Grim? Yeah. But writing off the media as a whole isn’t going to help. The truth is that your attention is a currency. Our communities are still full of hardworking, principled journalists, like the writers at BSR.

When you feel immobilized by the manufactured partisan crisis of the day and genuine threats to democracy, supporting local journalism is a way to fight back—against disinformation, disillusionment, and disenfranchisement. At BSR, we aren’t breaking news. But we’re doing something just as important: creating a deep-rooted record of our community that includes diverse, well-informed, independent opinions, and dynamic creators whose important work often isn’t breaking the surface in other outlets. If you want to know what’s on the horizon, pay attention to artists.

We love to develop partnerships in the greater arts and culture community—in the past few years, we’ve worked with organizations including Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Art-Reach, Blue Stoop, and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. We're passionate about disability justice and coverage that truly represents our city. Does our work appeal to you or your organization? Get in touch! Maybe we can brainstorm a way to collaborate in the coming year.

The BSR team (including Kyle V. Hiller and Zara Waters with me on editorial, Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer on socials, executive director Neil Bardhan, publisher Sid Schechter, and podcaster Darnelle Radford) works hard on a small budget. We publish online and work remotely, without a central office, so almost all of the money we raise goes directly to pay our team and a huge network of dedicated local journalists, from industry veterans to first-time bylines. Will you join our growing list of supporters, and fight back with us, on behalf of creativity, community, accountability, and the future?

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