So, now that I've berated CNN for its over-emphasis on gossip, it's time for me to come back to Lansing and theater. However, the CNN rant provides a rather nice introduction for my next topic, something I've been thinking on for awhile.
I've been concerned that my column had grown a little too stale. That it was almost a press release service promoting only the news that people wanted to hear. There is a value to that, but a journalist is supposed to do more than just say what people want to hear. If I believe the arts are important--and I do--then I have a responsibility to take them seriously and to write about what is necessary, not just provide an expanded calendar service.
So what should I do differently? Well, I'm still working on that. I'm hoping that the features I've been writing will be a step in the right direction, but I don't pretend to believe that it is an arrival.
What is it that would help support meaningful dialog about the arts in Lansing?
I know what I want to stay away from: gossip.
Gossip is a too easy answer. It may be fun and might even boost readership, but too often it is more harmful than helpful. I like a good gossip session as much as the next person, but I'm not one to put it into anything so permanent as print (or in this case, electronic type).
Sometimes, though, the gossip does point to an underlying issue. For example, awhile ago (and I refuse to say whether it was two years, two months, two weeks, or two days ago, as I really am trying to avoid the gossip element) there was a disagreement among stakeholders in a local group. The disagreement led to fisticuffs.
While the details of that might make for salacious reading, what I find to be of more lasting importance is the issue that led to the fight. It's one that deserves addressing and talking about the pros and cons in a serious fashion.
I'm fairly certain, though, that if I tried to write about it (the issue, not the fight) in my column, most people would want to say little other than the official PR line so as not to make their organization look bad. I understand this, but would like to find a way that we can promote authentic conversations about tough issues. Should the discussions belong only in the back rooms of the organizations? Or would bringing the discussions out to the community create more investment in the ideas and needs of the individual organizations? Would it help people to better understand some of the more subtle (and not so subtle) challenges that organizations face?
Would it matter to people more than what the director of the next show has to say about an individual production?
These aren't rhetorical questions. I have many different answers--some conflicting--but no good hold on what the right answers are.