Monday 29 October 2012

Ethics & Arts Journalism: discussion topic at SAAWCA meeting

South African Arts Writers and Critics Association (SAAWCA) will be holding a meeting in Joburg in November. This year it will include an invigorating debate regarding ethics and arts journalism followed by a networking session, allowing for the discussion to evolve more informally and give an opportunity for young or aspiring critics to meet our established members. Anyone with a vested interested in arts writing is welcome to attend. 

Date: November 10

Venue: Theatre on the Square, Sandton, Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg

Time: 11am to 2pm

Topic: Are arts media sponsorship deals compromising arts journalism?

Panellists:  Anton Harber (professor of Journalism at Wits) will join Matthew Krouse (Arts Editor, Mail and Guardian), Georgina Thompson (director Dance Umbrella, Dance Forum), Michelle Constant (head of BASA, journalist), Adrienne Sichel (Independent Arts Writer) Edward Tsumele (Editor CityLife)

Please RSVP:

Discussion: More and more arts institutions are entering into deals with publications/ newspapers/media groups as a way of guaranteeing the promotion and coverage of their events. In some instances money exchanges hands in the form of advertising, in other instances both organisations enter into an agreement whereby the publication offers coverage in exchange for the marketing their brand at a particular event or through the advertising and promotion of it. Because objectivity in arts reporting is seen as less important than say in hard news, few questions have been raised around the ethics of these deals, and more importantly the impact they may have on the impartiality and quality of the reporting and whose work or event receives coverage.

Here are few pertinent questions that this discussion needs to address

Is the media/editorial for sale? What impact could this have on how the public and arts community view arts journalism?

Is it an even playing field when only arts organisations with money or affiliations to institutions with funds are given space/coverage in newspapers or other arts publications? What of those that don’t have any financial clout?

Do arts journalists feel free to critically appraise an arts event produced by an organisation that their publication has entered into a deal?
Should an institution be able to end a media sponsorship deal because of unfavourable comments in the coverage they secured?
Why are publications entering into these deals; are limited budgets and the pressure to sustain arts journalism contributing towards this phenomenon?
How does this impact on the arts? These deals may help grow audiences but does it educate them? What of artists and performers who depend on impartial critical arts writing to grow their practice?
If this has become an essential part of arts journalism, are there different ways that we could conceive of these agreements so as to minimise their impact on the quality of arts journalism? In other words should the terms of these agreements be renegotiated, should there be a set of rules in place?
In the digital sphere these deals manifest in slightly different ways, perhaps more pervasive ways where the online publication is solely reliant on sponsorship from arts institutions or establishments to survive. What kind of relationships are these and how are they impacting on whose events, works are covered and how they are covered?

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