Yesterday morning's panel at the MCANA critics conference had the topic of "Bogging: Blah blah or Brilliance? The panel consisted of Peter W. Goodman (Hofstra University -- and formerly at Newsday), Andrew Druckenbrod (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Frank J. Oteri (NewMusicBox), and Doug McLennan (ArtsJournal).
Since the MCANA is still dominated by print journalist - most of whom have started blogs within the confines of their newspapers' websites - the discussion quickly revealed that these critics are fearing the end of their jobs, and they don't see blogging as an answer to earning a livelihood for their families. Editors at newspapers don't understand and/or are not interested in classical music, so everyone is waiting for the axe to fall.
Nobody knows about the future, but it seems to be pointing to blogging in some form or another. Therefore, as McLennan pointed out, you've got to give it your best shot as a critic and develop an audience that will want to follow you. He also said that with so much being written in the blogsphere, the critic will become even more important because people will need to find those critics who have something meaningful to say.
Regina Hackett, an art critic for the Seattle P-I, was held up as a critic who has successfully become an arts blogger. To read her go here.
After the panel ended, I spoke briefly with McLennan. He gets up at 5 am and begins to read through blogs in order to figure out what he will post on ArtsJournal.com. He said that he goes through 1,000 blogs a day. Wow!
I think that the newspapers are really missing an opportunity with their online presence. Instead of just giving one critic a blog, they should give their freelancers blogs as well. They could even open to other freelancers that they feel are qualified to extend their coverage into concerts, shows, and all sorts of cultural things that are currently ignored. They would then dominate the cultural news and readers would go to their website to get the latest culture news.
I tried this idea on several people, including McLennan, and all acknowledged that that is a great way to go for newspapers to stay viable - at least online. However, they said that newspapers won't do this because of inherent problems in the way that newspapers are structured.
For more information about the classical music critics conference, see the posting on June 10th.