Opinion and Viewpoint

LIBMAN: A plan to fill a media void in the arts

June 8, 2013

LibmanJay Harvey, the performing arts critic for The Indianapolis Star, retired from the paper May 17. Given the importance of the arts to central Indiana, not to mention the amount of advertising bought by arts organizations, one would think the Star has a plan.

Lou Harry’s column on Harvey’s departure from the Star gives us reassurance that IBJ remains committed to continuing its long tradition of covering the arts.

Given, too, the climate in the news business, the arts community should not wait for the Star or any other organization to solve this problem, which will affect both arts lovers and arts providers.

Central Indiana is blessed to have some of the nation’s most important arts and cultural organizations operating to serve hundreds of thousands of patrons each year. These cultural assets are a vital component of the quality of life we all enjoy.

As daily newspaper readers increasingly rely on the online New York Times or Wall Street Journal for national news, a void in local coverage of narrower interests, such as opera or jazz, has grown.

While this trend leaves arts patrons without a traditional means of choosing and scheduling the events they will attend, it can also create a golden opportunity for the performing and visual arts community. As with many other kinds of information, what the old media has discarded can be replaced by the new media. By uniting behind a common purpose, the central Indiana arts community can serve its customers better than ever and help itself, as well.

The question is whether the arts community can work together, collaborate and forge an alliance that will allow it to collect and disseminate information about all its arts to the public. Can the arts community set aside rivalries and petty differences to work together for the greater good? The answer is, yes.

The arts community offers something the arts-going public wants and the media desperately needs: content. The activities generated by the arts community attract more individuals than all professional sports combined. It’s time the arts community used that power to help the organizations and artists they represent. It’s time for bold action.

Here is what I propose the arts community should do:

1. Quickly gather their marketing and PR directors and create an online and print newsletter that gathers information and disseminates that information to these organizations.

2. Hire former reporters and critics to write for this newsletter, much as sports organizations have done as newspaper readership has declined. Be bold and let these critics write reviews.

3. Seek advertisers and sponsors to cover the cost of this newsletter.

4. Forge new partnerships with media still interested in supporting the arts community—like IBJ.

5. Create a website focused on the work of the central Indiana arts community. This website would harness the marketing power of the entire arts community, yet also have the ability to link to each organization’s individual website.

6. Create a joint box office that serves the entire arts community.

The key to the success of this strategy is that arts patrons want to be informed and have the skills and tools to use the Internet. Of course, discovering and checking the individual website of our scores of arts organizations is daunting and time-consuming. A central site would be a convenience and an educational tool for consumers and a marketing tool for producers.

Bold action is needed. Don’t waste this wonderful opportunity.•

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Libman is president of The Libman Group, and creator and co-host of the radio show “The Voice of the Performing Arts,” which appears weekly on WICR-FM 88.7. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.
 

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