Critical Commentary: Speaking Truth to Waning Power

Fight bland arts coverage. Support The Arts Fuse

By Bill Marx

I received a couple of tweets from Geoff Edgers of The Boston Globe about my column “Why is Boston’s Arts Coverage So Bland?” and I wanted some elbow room to respond. I admire that the arts reporter is sticking up for his comrades. And appreciate his support for The Fuse.

Tweet One: I agree, the more the merrier. And I hope @artsfuse thrives. But this, Bill, is so far off the mark it’s on another planet.

Tweet Two: Hard to imagine anyone, for example, would call this the product of the “docile mainstream media.”

Let me take care of the second tweet first. Nowhere do I say in the piece that The Arts Fuse is all good and everyone else is all bad. There are exceptions in big local media, and the Globe (more than WBUR or WGBH) at times treats arts coverage with the seriousness it deserves. My point is that I want more quality arts reporting and criticism and less thinly disguised publicity. Would Geoff like to go through a month of gs and work out the proportion of P.R. to journalism? Does anyone doubt the outcome? I suggest he do the following exercise—look at a week of the Globe‘s arts coverage this year, read the articles and total up the column inches, and compare those results with the column inches devoted to the arts in the Globe the same week a decade ago. I have done that, and the results are quite striking—shrinking coverage means fewer articles means fewer serious pieces appear.

As for the former tweet, I would argue that my feet, after three decades of covering the arts in Boston, are very much on this planet. Geoff is a good investigative reporter, and I suggest that he talk (off the record would be the only way) to a number of Globe arts writers past and present. He will find substantiation for what I say in my column, most of which is not much of a surprise to those who cover the arts in a profession that has been set back on its heels. Look down at the journalistic ground at your feet Geoff—it is crumbling.

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