13 May 2018

The future for arts reviewing online

From Standing Room Only, 12:17 pm on 13 May 2018


We continue our investigation into arts reviewing, by looking at the growing importance of reviewing online. You'll hear how website Pantograph Punch is balancing its review output with its desire to pay its writers - notoriously a poorly paid profession.

But online reviewing can't replace printed newspaper reviews, which used to be in every major paper as well as magazines like The Listener. Things have changed and more changes are coming.

Last week on the programme we heard from two reviewers from Stuff newspapers.  Visual arts columnist Dr Warren Feeney from The Press will still write for the paper but with less focus on local exhibitions.  After more than 20 years as a theatre critic, Ewan Coleman is no longer working for the Dominion Post.  The news followed the Stuff newspaper shift to a tabloid format two weeks ago.

Mayor Justin Lester who holds the City Council's arts and cultural portfolio, has met with the Dominion Post recently. Ahead of that meeting Justin Lester spoke to Standing Room Only producer Mark Amery for this item. The editor of The Dominion Post and Stuff in Wellington, Eric Janssen isn't available to come on the show but has sent us this statement:

"We fully realise the value to, and importance of, the arts in Wellington - and Stuff and The Dominion Post will continue to give it as much coverage as resources allow and, most importantly, our readership tells us to be valued.

"We have made changes to our pages and some cuts to our coverage because detailed research into reading habits - online and print - showed surprisingly and disappointingly low readership. We have diverted some of those resources to arts coverage that is read by tens of thousands, rather than a few dozen.

"We have retained most of our expert reviewers, whose work on local productions, along with that of our own staff, will shift from the culture page to news pages. The culture pages will focus on arts of national scope and significance. We will also give more space and attention to the arts in Wellington on our Capital Day page.

"We're operating in a very tough media environment, which forces us at times to make decisions unpopular with certain groups or sectors. We, too, would love it to be otherwise, but that is the reality.

"It must, however, be  stressed, that that reality is a long way off the 'death of arts in Wellington' as some critics have been quick to conclude. The show will go on."

Standing Room Only producer Mark Amery is an arts writer and reviewer and Lynn Freeman took over from him as Theatre reviewer for the long-gone free paper Capital Times. Both spoke to Editor in Chief of online arts platform Pantograph Punch, Lana Lopesi, to discuss the changing environment for arts reviewing in New Zealand and their own website's recent decision to cut back on its arts reviewing.