Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Revisiting Reviewing: The Need for a Debate on the Role of Arts Journalism in South Africa

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Revisiting Reviewing: The Need for a Debate on the Role of Arts Journalism in South Africa

Article excerpt

Abstract

Revisiting reviewing: The need for a debate on the role of arts journalism in South Africa

The assault on the editor of a publication at a South African arts festival by an artist who disliked a review of his concert again highlighted an age-old rift between artists and critics. However, the response that this incident elicited among readers of this and other publications, showed surprising support for the artist rather than for the journalist. If this is read as an indication of a disillusionment among readers with regard to the standards of arts journalism in South Africa, the relationship between arts journalists and society should be re-examined. Ethical journalism rests upon a relationship between journalist and audience, and a sensitivity for the context in which journalism is practised. This article examines arts journalism within changing societal contexts, with a specific focus on the South African situation, where artistic production still bears witness to cultural and ethnic divisions of the past. Against the background of the changes that have occurred in society on a local and global level, it is argued that a re-evaluation of the roles and responsibilities of arts journalists is needed--especially in the light of the formation of new cultural identities after apartheid. In conclusion, an ongoing and in-depth debate about the ethical responsibility of arts journalism is suggested in order to ensure its continued relevance within an increasingly commercialised cultural context on the one hand, and within a changing South African society on the other.

Opsomming

'n Herbesinning oor resensering: die noodsaak vir 'n debat oor die rol van kunsjoernalistiek in Suid-Afrika

'n Aanval op die redakteur van 'n feespublikasie by 'n Suid-Afrikaanse kunstefees deur 'n kunstenaar wat nie gehou het van 'n resensie oor sy vertoning nie, het weer 'n ou kloof tussen kunstenaars en resensente onder die aandag gebring. Die reaksie wat hierdie insident ontlok het onder die lesers van hierdie en ander publikesies, het egter verbasend bale steun vir die kunstenaar eerder as vir die joernalis getoon. As hierdie reaksie 'n aanduiding is van lesers se ontnugtering met die standaarde van kunsjoemalistiek in Suid-Afrika, is dit nodig om die verhouding tussen kunsjoernaliste en die samelewing te herondersoek. Hierdie artikel ondersoek kunsjoernalistiek binne veranderende sosiale kontekste, met 'n spesifieke fokus op die Suid-Afrikaanse situasie. Kunsjoernaliste se rol binne 'n samelewing soos Suid-Afrika, waar artistieke produksie steeds getuig van die kulturele en etniese verdelings van die verlede, word ondersoek. In die lig van die veranderinge wat in die samelewing op 'n plaaslike en globale vlak plaasgevind her, word dit beredeneer dat 'n herevaluering van die rolle en verantwoordelikhede van kunsjoernaliste noodsaaklik is, veral in die lig van die refining van nuwe kulturele identiteite na apartheid. Die artikel sluit af deur aan te beveel dat 'n voortgaande en diepgaande debat sal plaasvind oor die etiese verantwoordelikheid van kunsjoemalistiek wat die voortgesette relevansie daarvan binne 'n toenemend kemmersiele kulturele konteks enersyds, en binne 'n veranderende Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing andersyds, sal verseker.

1. Introduction: Ads, criticism and society

A Latin proverb goes: De gustibus non est disputandum, translated as "There is no accounting for tastes" (Knowles, 2000:277). Yet arts journalists make a living out of precisely that--accounting for taste. Or do they? Is arts journalism merely based on individual opinions, or is there also some intersubjective framework in which they operate? Are arts critics a law unto themselves, governed by a specialist knowledge only an elite few are privy to, or should they be accountable to the public at large and governed by codes of conduct? Is there an universal aesthetic that arts journalists should be initiated in? …

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