Documented around the world through live blogging, video stream, and Twitter, the National Summit on Arts Journalism opened with presentations of five examples of new journalistic models that have "reinvent[ed] the very idea of what it means to do cultural journalism." These "showcase projects," along with five "public projects" were selected by the NAJP for their excellence in driving new ideas in the field. Each project was presented via a pre-taped interview detailing the unique ways in which each source has improved on the old model of arts reporting. At the end of the conference, the "public projects" were put to an online vote; the winning site will be announced at the end of the month and will receive a $9,500 grant from the program.
Sophie 2.0 was developed at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy at USC. Professor Holly Willis demonstrated this tool, which provides immediate features for documenting and reviewing the arts.
The second project was NPR Music, presented by executive producer Anya Grundmann. This web site incorporates blogs, chat, reviews, and live performance videos rather than a criticism-based format for reporting on the arts.
Third was C3, developed at the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. C3's focus was on entrepreneurs and community connections. Steve Buttry, the site's "innovation coach," aptly noted that the product had always been providing news, not the paper it is printed on.
The presentation on Instant Encore illustrated an interesting merging of technology with the traditionally less tech-savvy audience for classical music. Margo Drakos, chief operating officer, described Instant Encore's standard features as well as innovative iPhone applications used to further engage with mobile users.
Last was the Indiana Museum of Art's web site, presented by director and CEO Max Anderson. The site features an exceptional approach to submerging a physical space for art within the online sphere. Questions developed among viewers regarding the blending of the tactile offline art world and the Internet.
The Summit then shifted gears in to the "Public Projects" presentation, beginning with new media director Juan Devis' presentation of Departures, a project of KCET, the Los Angeles public television station. Departures uses a non-linear narrative of describing Los Angeles culture through multimedia literacy.
The second project was an inspiring site, Glasstire. Founder and director Rainey Knudson is an arts reporter who returned to her native Texas with the intent only to report on regional happenings in visual art. Knudson commented that Glasstire was attempting to "define a regional aesthetic," and added (with certain emphasis) that all Glasstire writers are paid.
Flyp, an online approach to the print magazine, was presented by Editor-in-Chief Jim Gaines. The site uses a design-sensitive approach based on magazine pages that "flip" (complete with a page-turning sound effect). Summit audience members questioned Flyp's preoccupation with tactile nostalgia rather than content.
The fourth project was San Francisco Classical Voice, the Bay Area's online classical music scene hub. Executive producer Patty Gessner presented the site as a reporter and aggregator of specific, hyper-local stories about the arts.
Finally, Mark Mangan, co-founder and CEO of Flavorpill, presented his New York-based web site, where both staff members and users post art openings and events. The site features only "the things [they] like," which raised questions among the summit's public viewers, who wondered whether a site that offers only positive reviews could be considered criticism.
The first round-table discussion, "The Art of Arts Journalism" brought together author and hip-hop culture expert Jeff Chang, New York Times reporter Seth Schiesel, and was moderated by NPR Arts correspondent Laura Sydell. The three provided a rich conversation on issues of the editorial/advertising "wall." At one point Chang suggested that the philosophy of the individual art critic encompasses the totality of that individual's experience, rather than a narrow interpretation of a particular subject; several off-site viewers captured his quote in the conference's Twitter feed.
The second panel, "The Business of Arts Journalism," was moderated by Andras Szanto, of the National Endowment for the Arts Classical Music Institute. He was joined by Richard Gingras (CEO of Salon.com) and Deborah Marrow (director, the Getty Foundation). Gingras asserted his optimism that there will always be arts journalism, but audience members wondered how these writers would ultimately get paid. Marrow did not believe that foundations and philanthropy groups would be the sole savior of arts journalism, but suggested that hybrid business models may develop, which combine for-profit and non-profit sources of income.
Concluding questions centered on the pressing theme of establishing a business model for arts journalism. How will journalism, particularly arts reporting, continue to be a viable living? The National Arts Summit presented a rich platform for exploring what is widely acknowledged as just the beginning of this industry's online transition.