When my S.O. and I moved to Louisville in 2004, there were two hefty tabloids per week in the Courier-Journal, each covering arts, culture and weekend events. In addition, the Sunday Arts section was filled with reviews, information and local commentary ... a culture-phile's delight! But the local columns soon gave way to articles from the Associated Press, often about attractions not even available here. Then one tabloid went away, as the other one shrank and finally morphed into a tiny subsection of the Thursday paper. Sunday Arts -- or "Oarts," as the title seems to read, with the new logo -- became a four-pager, with a front page largely taken up with one attractive yet useless graphic, featuring (if we’re lucky) three or four short paragraphs of text. In addition, as of this writing, the Saturday "Plan Your Week" listings were cut from the print edition. When we complained about this, we were told, "The calendar was long," and "Sorry."
The CJ's Liz Kramer and LEO's Marty Rosen do what they can, but the fact is that print media (O)arts coverage in our city has shrunk into near oblivion, and online coverage has not risen to take its place. This isn’t for want of trying. Kudos to such websites as Arts-Louisville, Louisville.com and the sadly missed Culture Vulture for their efforts in this area. They would never replace your review with one from New York, or cut your show listing because there are just too many things going on. Still, these websites aren’t given the credit they deserve. Yes, some could do more to raise the bar -- engaging a copy editor, and removing legacy template elements, for example. The villain in this story, however, is probably the glut of for-profit newsletters and websites that republish public domain information for a price, either by amassing ad revenues or harvesting and selling your contact info. The pitiful quality of these "publications" mirrors their atrocious ethics, while unfortunately giving the legitimate sites a bad name.
So what can we do? We can start by supporting the real arts coverage that we have. Tell the CJ it isn't their art that we want to see. Buy the Thursday paper, or at least click on it online. If you're part of an arts organization, send regular press releases to the media, making sure they have something to cover. "Like" and follow the reputable online journalists. And when you get email from those for-profit leeches, immediately unsubscribe and banish them to the spam folder.
As of now, the print media still rule the metaphorical roost; however, even the most lofty print media can’t survive without readers. Tell them what we want, and that we'll support it. The louder we speak, the more widely we'll be heard and read.
- A.S. Waterman
Published Oct. 1, 2016