The news last week was pretty grim for anyone interested in the future of arts criticism in the United States. Due to downsizing, esteemed critics Jim Farber and David Hinckley were out at the New York Daily News, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune — the largest newspaper in that music-crazed city — will no longer have a full-time music critic. Reactions on Facebook ranged from sad to horrified.
It felt familiar. I received lots of supportive comments when I announced, in April 2014, that I would be leaving The Star-Ledger after 25 years there, and when I launched my own web site, NJArts.net, in September 2014.
Lots of people have continued to say nice things in the first year of the site. Turning that support into something more concrete has proven to be quite difficult, though.
I created a “Friends & Supporters” page in May, hoping to generate some money. A few hundred dollars have trickled in. I’m grateful for it, but it hasn’t really made a difference.
Last week, I did a Facebook post noting the site’s one-year anniversary, and asking for donations. Again, lots of nice words, but very little money. I received exactly one donation, for $20.
We’ve made some good progress on the advertising front in our first year. But again, New Jersey arts venues and arts promoters, on the whole, have not been as supportive as I would have wished. I’m grateful for those who have come on board. But we need a lot more.
To sum up the first year: NJArts.net published more than 850 posts, many about things that got no other significant coverage. That vast majority I wrote myself. I’ve also helped publicize shows and others events through our calendars, on-sale updates, ticket giveaways and email newsletter. And I didn’t come close to generating an income that would support myself and my family (and had to take lots of outside freelance assignments to help pay the bills, even though I would have preferred to concentrate full-time on NJArts.net.)
As far as having a staff of writers churning out articles in their various areas of expertise … that remains a distant dream.
As the departure of the Daily News and Times-Picayune critics should prove to everyone, the old ways of arts journalism don’t exist anymore. Newspapers are rapidly shrinking, and don’t consider it a priority. Those who want to keep doing it, like myself, are scrambling to find a way. But arts lovers and artists who feel a need for it can’t afford to be passive anymore. Or it’s just going to vanish totally.
Sorry to sound so dire. But I had to get that off my chest.
Please consider making a donation at NJArts.net/friends-supporters. If you’d like to communicate directly with me, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.