The gatekeepers in contemporary culture, the publishers, the curators etc. have proved themselves avaricious and irresponsible. The print media’s art section is full of puff pieces copied without acknowledgement from media releases before often the exhibition even starts. The first thing that I learnt about the print media, it is that is mostly cut and pasted from the media release. The arts sections of the print media are tuned into the media management system and know that there job is essentially promotion; so many publications print articles in conjunction with marketing campaigns. There are many more problems with conventional mainstream media’s art journalism, for example, Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper dropped it entire Arts section in mid 2010. (See The Age‘s report on this.)
In this environment bloggers writing reviews about the arts and culture are increasingly being read and recognized as a real alternative to mainstream media reviews. Further threatening the diminishing revenue of newspapers. When the content of bloggers are approved of they the mainstream media describes us as “citizen journalists”. When we are simply competition bloggers are accused of spreading rumours (when the source of these rumours is most often the mainstream media), defamation or that bloggers lack accuracy in their reporting. Blogging is not just being a citizen journalist but a citizen photojournalist with a digital camera and a notepad. I do not write about exhibitions that I haven’t seen for myself and then I check my facts. (Even then, I have made mistakes most frequently over the gender of an artist – I always make corrections and keep the comment noting the error up.)
Against this background Cameron Woodhead has written: “If you’re a critic on the internet everyone can hear you scream.” (The Age Thursday September 23, 2010) Well there is a bit more background, a flame war between Woodhead and theatre blogger Alison Croggon (Theatre Notes). In the article Woodhead repeats the usual accusations against bloggers – lack of fact checking, lack of by lines and defamation. According to Woodhead: “With no editor to rein you in, the responsibility that comes with online criticism is terrifying.” I don’t find this responsibility terrifying any more than the responsibility of acting ethically when not directly policed (as if the police/editors/gods etc. are guarantors of ethical behaviour). Authority does not flow from obligations as Woodhead claims; authority comes from an audience who have accepted the reliability writing of an author and that audience maybe impressed with displays of power, they may seriously deluded or an ignorant mob (remember that the Bible was once regarded as authoritative).
I don’t need an editor but I wish that I had a copy-editor then I wood knot make the kind errors that the spellchecker doesn’t pick up. It would also be good to have the contacts that working in a larger publication would provide. And online critics aren’t forming their own networks. I was only aware of this particular debate (flame war) because I had attended the Critical Failure Unconference at the Wheeler Centre where I met other online critics in Melbourne. Thanks to George Dunford and Trampoline for organizing the event and to all the participants Alison Croggon, Lisa Dempster, Estelle Tang, Angela Meyer, Mel Campbell, Ben Eltham, Nikita Vanderbyl, WH Chong, Richard Watts, Daniel Wood, George Dunford and Pat Allan. This is not a report on the Unconference as I’m still mulling over about all the ideas that were discussed.