Monday, October 16, 2006

Day 2

Some REALLY fascinating discussions today, meetings with Steve Smith of Time Out, Justin Davidson of Newsday, and then later with John Rockwell, New York Times, and Alexandra Peers of the Wall Street Journal.

We were supposed to be on about challenges of covering classical music in the newsroom for the first one, but having never been in a newsroom except on a tour, I didn't have much to contribute. My interest lay more in Smith's blog - Night After Night.

A veteran writer for Time Out, the blog is a new project for him. As a weekly mag writer, it gives him an opportunity to do overnight reviews of concerts. It actually really feeds into a lot of my own issues of authority and opportunities in blogging, since it opens up a new forum for communication otherwise unavailable, AND he has had a personal sense of decorum about WHAT is appropriate on the blog. For instance, he refrains from reviewing a concert that a NYT colleague is reviewing until after the print review is out.

This raises an interesting question - how much self-editing is necessary? Is there an etiquette that crosses publication lines? AND, bigger yet...does the blog have enough authority to really challenge anything a Times critic would write...or does it just have the advantage of speed?

Then lunch with two editors. Actually the same themes that popped up throughout my thesis, and my degree came up all over again - authority, autonomy, OBJECTIVITY (which got a snort of derision from Joe Horowitz, as well as a promise that the issue would arise more later), and the role of critic as educator. That one caught me, because we all seemed to be in agreement about the fact that the critic IS an educational influence, an explanatory figure, etc. But there was a variety of opinion on how far this could go, the terminology used (dumbing down somehow being turned around and NOT used pejoratively...I still can't figure that one out), and why we should be the ones to do this.

But we all seemed to agree that this was a partial role for any critic. But my question becomes - if we all agree, who DOESN'T agree? Where does the fear of being expert come from? It seems a particularly American affect, to want those explaining things to be Just folks, plain spoken (to quote West Wing). But we're not just folks. We're good writers, and we're knowledgeable. Why do we fear taking on that role? How did being an educator and preaching to the unwashed masses become totally equated?

Every answer raises more questions, but it's fascinating being in a large group of people who have the same questions as I do. And maybe different answers.

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