The News and The Arts Have Similar Problems

Oklahoma Arts Day 2015. Flickr user: ok4art
Oklahoma Arts Day 2015. Flickr user: ok4art

Today Melody Kramer (who is awesome) published this essay on public media.

She talks about how public media serves a public, and how a lot of the current fight over “traditional NPR” vs. “podcasts” misses the point of what’s happening. Linda Holmes also wrote a great re-framing of that debate.

I’ve been following a lot of this work around public media and journalism, but particularly Melody’s work, for years. To start with, it’s brilliant, creative, and has a huge amount of potential to help media survive as a service to people, and to help journalism to thrive. But that’s just a thing I’m interested in as a human who likes public media and news.

As someone who’s job it is to help “the arts” to thrive (whatever that means), I’m following this work because I can learn a huge amount from it about how to do my job. I’m sure that a lot of arts advocates reading this can, too.

The arts and journalism have a huge amount in common in terms of the challenges we’re facing right now:

  • The relationship between the for-profit and non-profit sides of both industries is rapidly evolving.
  • The business model challenges center around “content”, its value, its creation, and its distribution.
  • The individual people making things are increasingly forced to be freelancers instead of employees.
  • The non-profit institutions in both industries are under immense pressure to re-imagine what it means to serve a community.
  • The for-profit institutions in both industries are facing the loss of scarcity in their manufactured goods, and are struggling with digital subscription models.
  • Lots of people in both industries are desperate to collaborate, and are frustrated by how hard it is for our institutions to actually do that.
  • People demand that both industries survive as part of our society; we just need to figure out how.

That’s enough for me to go on to be able to read what’s happening in Melody’s world and figure out how a lot of it applies to mine. There are plenty of places where the analogy breaks down (for instance, the Panama Papers don’t have an obvious analogue in the arts), but there’s still a huge amount of common ground.

How are you finding the work being done in journalism useful in the arts? If you work in journalism or public media, are there things you find useful in how the arts economy is evolving?

How can our two industries collaborate?

2 Responses

  1. Absolutely right. Way back in 2008, I wrote about the connection between newspapers and symphony orchestras for Createquity, and in looking back it seems I managed to get a Baumol reference in there too. 🙂 Thought you’d find it of interest. http://createquity.com/2008/04/newspapers-and-symphony-orchestras/

  2. Kevin says:

    Excellent! The similarities have only gotten bigger with time, and with the huge moves philanthropy has made into journalism. Now let’s get the smart people in both industries sharing and collaborating, too. I know there’re more we can learn from each other past noticing that we’re in similar boats, if not actually just one big boat.

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