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To The Voices of Detraction

September 10, 2009

negative.jpegA few people have written to me this morning both publicly via ArtsJournal and privately via my email address in response to the blog post I wrote yesterday about the upcoming National Arts Journalism Summit in Los Angeles.

A couple of commentators brought up some worthwhile criticisms of the concept which I would like to highlight and reply to. Here is the first:

"Only four hours for a "summit on journalism"? Seems to me a rather paltry amount of time to spend on such an important subject, and most of it is going to be taken up by speeches and presentations. They can talk about participating through text messaging or Twitter, but it seems a poor way to learn, reason and then offer insights and ideas about a complicated subject. But have at it. Perhaps it will dawn on people that superficial thinking is the problem."

And here is the second:

"Four hours is not long enough, nor is the 10-15 minutes each of the five finalists gets to make their presentations. I also find the secrecy a bit overdramatic. The judges should be named and identified. Mr. McLelland said that 27 of the submissions were agreed by the judges to be strong. Why not at least identify those 27 strong ideas and let's have a real dialogue on how we can forge a future for arts journalists. Why travel to participate in a 4 hour forum when you can do it from the comfort of your office?"

The criticisms that these commentators make about the summit seem reasonable. Four hours isn't a long time. And now that commentator B mentions it, listing the 27 top projects considered for the summit on the website in advance of the live event might be a lovely way to generate excitement ahead of October 2 and make more of the people who contributed projects feel like their efforts were well received. Perhaps the organizers might consider doing this in the coming days?

On the other hand, it seems rather strange for people to start denigrating the summit before it even takes place. This is a first-of-its-kind event. We should be supporting and looking forward to its birth, not tearing it down in utero. Criticism will no doubt play a valuable role when the event is over and we can evaluate its success. But right now, the negativity comes across as rather hollow.


  • I am not one for either/or distinctions. However, you have chosen to depict the argument that seems to be brewing in terms of a choice between promotion and detraction. Perhaps the comments you received are more interested in whether the agenda is concerned with matters of diagnosis and cure or just with palliative care. I, for one, would be reluctant to give up four hours of my time (not counting transportation time and expense) for the sake of the latter agenda!

    By Blogger Stephen Smoliar, At September 10, 2009 at 3:43 PM  

  • Chloe, I really think you have a responsibility to let people say what they like regarding how the summit is being handled without labeling them "hollow."

    People aren't fools: they have a right to ask why the evaluation process was delayed, why the organizers are clutching on to the names of the winners (clearly for PR), and why there's a reluctance to abstract, in list form, all the entries so the blogosphere can see and evaluate for itself where all the creative and business ferment lies. If the blogosphere and arts journalism today is about a true recognition that there are no more gatekeepers, why, then, are there gatekeepers?

    While this isn't merely about whether a four-hour presentation is enough, I'd stress one other point: You're acting as if no one has ever attended, organized or presented at a conference before, and thus would possess no frame of reference regarding whether a four-hour timeline might be sufficient. On the contrary, many folks have had many conference experiences -- they know how quickly time passes. Indeed, if people want to suggest that four hours isn't enough time, isn't that a good thing -- that they want more talk and debate, more examination, consideration? Who is really judging who here?

    By Blogger Unknown, At September 12, 2009 at 9:48 AM  

  • THanks for your comments, Leonard
    I take your point
    and of course people are entitled to question the entire enterprise. i just think that it's a shame to shoot this down before it's even happened.

    By Blogger Chloe Veltman, At September 12, 2009 at 11:58 AM  

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