I'm writing to initiate a conversation about coverage of Utah's arts scene in the media, and to let you know of some things you can do to help preserve it. As most of you know, The Deseret News has changed its format, which included eliminating feature stories and reviews of arts events in Utah. Unfortunately, many newspapers around the nation are doing similar things. One result is that arts organizations -- already hard-hit by the economic downturn -- have a harder time getting the word out about their events. This means they have a harder time surviving.
As a freelance arts writer who contributes to The Salt Lake Tribune, I have a personal stake in all this, but I hope this letter does not seem too self-serving. Our state has an impressive arts scene that has been carefully cultivated since the earliest days of settlement here. My great fear is that if we lose our media coverage of the arts, we will eventually lose many of our arts organizations as well.
Decision-makers at The Salt Lake Tribune are committed to keeping the paper's arts coverage -- for the time being. All newspapers are looking closely at cost-effectiveness and reader interest in these changing times, though. Editors who must decide where to trim costs need to know that arts coverage is being read and appreciated. They do this by tracking online "hits" on news stories.
This puts arts coverage at an immediate disadvantage, because many of our arts fans read the print edition of the paper -- and we love you for it! Those who read the online edition can help by clicking on the arts stories, and (better still) leaving comments, whether positive or negative. Even print readers could help out for awhile by going online to comment on arts stories.
Efforts are underway to expand the online features of our arts and entertainment pages at the Tribune. You can find arts stories by going to www.sltrib.com, then clicking on "Entertainment." Then click on "Arts" in the drop-down list that follows. If you want to find stories written by a particular reporter, you can put the name in the Search box on the homepage. (My by-line is Celia R. Baker, just in case). Arts stories appear in the MIX edition of the Sunday paper, and usually hit the web by Friday or Saturday, then remain online for awhile afterward.
It would be great if this letter could circulate among school teachers, string teachers and music faculty of all kinds, and their students. We need to go viral, and get a lot of comments coming for arts stories -- and I don't mean just mine! So, please forward this to anyone who might be interested.
I hope all of you understand why I would send this to you -- or at least forgive me if you don't. If you love the arts in Utah, and like being able to read about what's going on, then you will want to help. Letters to the editor are good, too, of course. If you appreciate arts coverage (or if you have a concern that needs airing), then please let your voice be heard.
Here, for starters, are links to my stories for this week. Once you are there, you will find pieces by other reporters that might interest you, too. These are about the Utah Symphony's new artistic director, Thierry Fischer, and the fabulous young violinist Hilary Hahn. It would be especially good if we could get some comments from string students, but all hits and comments are much appreciated:
Best to everyone,
Celia R. Baker