I’m at the Dance/USA Spring Council in Chicago, speaking on a panel titled “Connecting with Audiences Via the Press, Web and In-Person.” I’m the panel’s representative blogger, a role I find ironic since, although I was one of the first dance bloggers when I launched this site in 2003, I’ve hardly written any posts over the last year, using this venue instead to link to my Chronicle stories. I also find it ironic since, even though I was here relatively early, I’ve never been a blog evangelizer. I’ve always been an advocate for keeping dance prominently in the pages of print publications instead, clinging to the perhaps nostalgic notion of that general reader who might happen upon a dance review over her morning coffee, get sucked in by that first sentence, and start reading about dance even though she had no intention of doing so when she picked up the paper.
That notion seems even quainter this week as the San Francisco Chronicle continues to hand pink slips to the 100 newsroom employees who won’t survive the paper’s latest round of budget cuts. For once, I’m in a relatively cushy position as a freelancer, watching the layoffs from the outside even as I wonder what future the paper can possibly hold for me in the midst of such a crisis. It’s dark times at the Chronicle, and though I know few editorial employees there beyond my direct editors, I feel for those losing their jobs, and I can’t help but share the grim mood. Remember when the San Francisco dance community was actually mounting a pressure campaign upon executive editor Phil Bronstein to hire a full-time Chronicle dance critic? How luxurious those days now seem.
So: blogging. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s quite good depending on the individual writer, it’s unpaid, and it’s read by specialized, fragmented audiences. Is this what dance writing is left with?
Also, I’m hearing murmurs of discontent among the dance community with new Times chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay. To which I say: Macaulay is the best thing to happen to American dance coverage in at least 15 years, a voice at the Times who writes passionately and for a wide audience. He’s given me a fresh level of liveliness to aspire to–I believe my own dance reviews are improved now that I’m regularly reading his. To lament Macaulay’s hiring because he’s shaking things up, or beacuse of one particular cringe-inducing review is, I believe, incredibly short-sighted at a time when professional dance writing can’t afford myopia.
So enough with the funereal grumblings. My intent on tomorrow’s panel is to be as practically useful to the attendees as possible. Who knows where the Q and A might lead. If the excursions prove interesting, I will post about them here.