Monday, October 8, 2007

Senior Thesis Topic: Dance Journalism in New Media

So this week I'm submitting my "prospectus" for my senior thesis due later this semester. Basically I just had to outline what I'll be writing about and list some questions to be explored in my research.

I thought I'd share it here to see if anyone has some other ideas to add or comments about what I'm thinking about. See what you think and TELL ME.

Dance Journalism and Criticism in New Media

For my paper I would like to explore the changes that the internet and new media are bringing to arts journalism, specifically dance criticism. With the invention of online communities, blogs, and social networks, the journalism and publishing industries have seen significant changes in recent years. I want to investigate these changes and see how they are leading us to the future of arts journalism.

Being passionate about both dance and writing, this topic has intrigued me for some time now. The culture of the dance world is extremely unique and they way this community fits in and interacts with the larger world has proven to be a special relationship. Concert dance is far removed from mainstream culture and the art form has always struggled to find a place in popular media. I personally want to find a way to integrate this sector of society and raise awareness of what’s going on in the dance world by communicating with the mainstream. In a culture that thrives on celebrity pitfalls like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton it seems as though true art is far underappreciated.

With that being said, the most powerful method of communication about dance, besides movement, has been in print media. Newspapers traditionally provide entertainment listings where dance performances are given brief blurbs of details and ticket information. Only the country’s largest papers allot space to dance criticism, and as a result only few dance companies are represented in the press.

The more important issue is that in recent years there has been a severe cutback in print space given to dance coverage. Magazines, such as New York Magazine, have completely eliminated the position of Chief Dance Critic and run stories on dance very rarely. Newspapers have also seen a shortage of staff on this beat due to funding. The New York Times, which is the largest print outlet serving the dance community, has drastically cut space for dance in the popular Arts section over the past 20 years.

Another major issue with dance journalism is the shift in dance magazines. In the past, the major monthly publication for the art form was Dance Magazine, owned by Macfadden Performing Arts Media. The other regular magazines dedicated to dance include Pointe Magazine (specifically for ballet), Dance Teacher (for educators), and Dance Spirit (for a younger, competition based sector). All of these were owned by Lifestyle Media, Inc, which ran a slew of other smaller magazines. In August of 2006, Dance Magazine bought out this company, thus merging all of the dance titles under Macfadden’s reign.

The issue that I see with this is that of media convergence. The larger society of American, and the world for that matter, has seen a surge in the power of the media giants. Ownership has become a great issue, with 5 or 6 major companies running the majority of society’s media outlets. Time Warner, News Corporation, Viacom, and others have been the key players in acquisitions and mergers across all types of media, from television to print.

If this is problem enough for the “real world” it is even more of an issue in the “dance world” because the community alone is so small. With all of the dance news coming from essentially a single source now, Macfadden Performing Arts media seems to have a monopoly of power. Only certain voices are being heard and few opinions are being expressed in print. The situation is a mirror image of what’s going on in the larger scheme of media.

What seems to have risen as a solution to these two major issues of coverage cutbacks and media convergence is dance criticism online. A number of message boards have been in existence for years, allowing dance enthusiasts and balletomanes to express their opinions on the goings-on of the performing world. But only recently have blogs begun to pop up which provide more in depth coverage of performances, news, and general issues relating to dance. These sites allow a bigger variety of perspectives to be exposed and are not limited to the restrictions of time and space as print outlets are.

The internet has allowed for a beneficial increase in dance writing and has allowed for a close connection to be developed among the community. There is now an outlet for public discourse around the art form that would be nearly impossible to have without new media. Especially with the New York Times rumors of eventually going out of print and being solely online, this could be the future of arts journalism and potentially publishing as a whole.

Questions to Explore:
-What other internet conventions could be used in the context of dance journalism? For example, would the Wiki platform be used to document records of past performances or choreographic notations?

-How have the websites of the various dance magazines taken advantage of new media, and how do they compare to independent websites?

-What sparked the decline of dance journalism in print, and how can that be prevented in the online context?

-What conventions of the “dance world” impact how the topic is covered in media? For example, funding is an extremely big problem and dance companies perhaps need to be represented in the best possible light to stay alive. Is this preventing some of the more controversial issues facing the dance world from being publicly exposed?

-How can the dance world gain exposure in other mediums besides the internet and print?

-In what ways is the industry of publishing changing which may affect the future of arts journalism?

(c) 2007 Taylor Gordon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The slumping economy is partialy to blame for the reduction in space in media outlets. It's the simple dollars and cents mentality of cutting the least popular sections in order to make room for the more popular hence, money making sections. Also, as you mention the dance world is getting smaller therefore it stands to reason that those interested in reading about it are fewer. I foresee a shift away from the monopoly of Macfadden when a creative genius such as you gets some financial backing and competes with them. I venture to say that you would have much support from the dance community especially those that are not represented at all in MacFadden's circulations.
You've chosen an art form that due to it's very nature will constantly be a struggle to represent in the media, but I have no doubt that you'll keep trying and eventually perhaps create a new venue as an outlet in addition to competing with the Macfadden's of the world.