Is There a Learning Curve (Pass the Hors d’Oeuvres)?
During a sudden fit of procrastination, I surfed over to New York-media-gossip blog Gawker and stumbled upon the New York Sun‘s article titled “Arts Journalism Students Take Manhattan.” Hmm, could this have something to do with our brand spanking new intern? Yup. Anna Reguero, whose name you might see pop up in places all over NMBx in the near future, sent a last-minute invite to a coming out party of sorts for the inaugural class of the nation’s first masters degree program to focus solely on arts journalism. That’s cool. I wasn’t exactly dressed for evening cocktail hour—when am I ever?—but hey, let’s go anyway. Luckily I wasn’t the only awkward looking chap in the crowd.
Among us was a rather out-of-place looking guy, press badge exposed, pen and notebook in hand, making the rounds—very thoroughly, I might add. It appeared he was actually reporting on the reporters. That stealthy guy turned out to be none other than the writer New York Sun readers know as “The Knickerbocker”. Okay, maybe he wasn’t the one out of place—after all, the entire room was crammed with editors, reporters, and journalism students—perhaps I was the odd man out here. I never thought of myself as a journalist. It’s never been a goal or passion of mine. Really, I’m just a guy who writes about music sometimes in order to feed a nasty composing habit. In any case, I’m certainly not confused or in denial about one point: I rarely pass up opportunities for free cocktails and hor d’oeuvres. Hence, I found myself adrift among the sea of art critics and budding young journalists inside Syracuse University’s swanky alumni building on 61st Street.
Between sips of my “Goldring”—a prosecco and apricot juice concoction bearing the name of the arts patron and University trustee who funded the journalism program—I was confronted by a small army of bright-eyed students more than eager to pick my brain. Here for a 10-day “immersion” program, during which they meet industry types and attend cultural events throughout the city, it appeared most of the students already possessed the graceful mannerisms required to successfully navigate a networking schmooze fest such as Tuesday night’s reception. I got to chew the fat with a neophyte architecture and design critic, which gave me the chance to recall a time when I worked with A&D curator Aaron Betsky on projects by Droog and Karim Rashid—who?—and learned the class was going to see an opera—how do you pronounce it?— Wozzeck. I thought to myself: Okay, she’s ready for all the murder and madness (thank you very much local news broadcasts everywhere) but I don’t know about all that atonal music.
After having my suspicions confirmed by a destined-to-be film critic that, indeed, Crash totally sucked, I felt a nice connection with this young pack. Further conversation with those concentrating in other areas of cultural journalistic endeavors revealed some holes in their knowledge of their chosen focus. Having never taken a journalism class, I was under the impression that critics always had a firm understanding of, at the very least, the canonical history of their area of expertise. The more names I dropped, the more blank stares I received. As we put on our coats, I brought this up to my journalistic-wise colleague. She explained, quite simply, that journalists don’t have to know everything about their subject. Really, they need to know more about their readership and the ways in which they react to the arts. They only need to know enough about something to write about it, which I posit isn’t much.
By the way, I’m sure our new intern, Anna, is probably going to learn more about modern American composition than she ever bargained for. Especially with that Oteri guy hanging around the office.