I am no fool.

I love art. I love writing. I have a small (and growing) fantasy in which I find a way to write professionally about art. Since leaving school over three years ago, I have been somewhat at loose ends, professionally: I have worked as a technical writer, work at which I have excelled, but which has not made my heart sing. Since getting laid off recently, I’ve spent some time attending galleries and museums, writing here about what I am seeing, and stretching my critical thinking muscles once more. It has been so invigorating! I had forgotten how much I had missed overstimulating my brain, and having so many ideas I didn’t know where to begin writing.

I am at a peculiar crossroads, however. While demand for content is going up, major media outlets are releasing their longtime staff, especially those who do deep reporting on “soft” subjects: arts, literature, culture, lifestyle. People seek content from the web, and there are lots of sites out there (myself included) who will provide content for free, or who will aggregate and exerpt others’ content (such as The Huffington Post, or Gawker). With newswire services in the mix, I can get the same headlines from the New York Times or from NPR, and get my splash of culture from an aggregator site dedicated to my area of interest.

The problem, of course, is that if I – or anyone else – want to be a producer of original content, I have to be damn good, and sure that this work will be profitable. I keep this blog because I find the subject matter interesting, and I like to think that this writing will show a different side of me from my professional samples. In this way it is valuable to me, though I’ve yet to see any dollar returns. But for others out there who are individual producers of content? What about them?

In early December Sheila Farr stepped down from her role as the art critic at the Seattle Times. (Now, for the record, the Seattle Times has been showing up on newspaper death pool lists for the last few weeks — including The Media Is Dying — the publication is in debt and underwater, and no one really believes that it will make it through the end of 2009.) Her farewell article was bittersweet, and did not sound as though she were leaving willingly. The PI has done better, and Regina Hackett soldiers on with a dogged persistence. The Stranger, and its daily blog, The Slog, seem to be lone holdouts in this recession, carrying the banner for visual arts, music, and restaurants – though this has always been its core strength. (The Seattle Weekly, which used to be the alternative paper de rigueur, has fallen nearly entirely out of relevance, though I don’t know whether this is over lack of money or simply poor editorial management. I will say that when I go looking for good visual arts reviews in their archives for recent exhibits, I don’t find them.) Over at City Arts, Emily White also notes this distressing trend in cutting back on our cultural coverage. Before now, I haven’t given much consideration to City Arts, though after this article, I will probably pick it up more frequently.

Not too long ago, I noticed on the PI’s blogs site that they are looking for additional “community bloggers”. I have considered applying, because I know how short coverage is getting in the arts. I like reviewing shows, but alos, there doesn’t seem to be so much writing out there that addresses the larger themes in contemporary art. Still, there is a calculation here: newspapers aren’t paying their experienced arts writers — if I go blog for the PI, I’ll be writing about art, yes, but I won’t be getting paid either. I’ll probably do it anyway for the exposure, but it seems that a lot of people stand to lose out, including me. Who was the fool who said if you do what you love, the money will follow??

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~ by ecp on January 6, 2009.

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