The Media and the Arts

It’s Culture Night tonight. For anyone who’s going to an event, enjoy. You certainly can’t have missed the coverage, as the media has been giving it a generous splash. Morning Ireland devoted seven or eight minutes to it this morning – a hefty slice of coverage for a flagship current affairs show.

Amid all the grim gurning of the economy, the media is spreading small rays of sunshine with its coverage of the arts. Hardly a week goes by without a writer or musician appearing on a mainstream daytime programme. Given that the media is still largely word-based, writers of all disciplines tend to be better-represented than the rest. Emma Donoghue’s shortlisting for the Booker merited a story on the Six-One News.

And it’s not all warm, fuzzy stories either. The media weighed behind the petitioners in the campaign for the arts that was staged last year, when the arts sector faced massive cuts in the budgets. Writer Colm Toibin gave an extensive interview on Morning Ireland. Though it’s hard to quantify, the media may well have played a role in ensuring that the axe didn’t fall quite as heavily as it could have.

Why is the media giving so much acreage to the arts? Is it because of journalists’ frustrated dreams of artistic genius? It’s more likely to be because Ireland’s outpouring of artistic expression is the only good news story we have. And it can be turned into real economic gold. Artists have begun to capitalise on this trend and to recognise the importance of making themselves available in the media, which can only be good for sales.

But there is still more that the media can do. There are other art forms which deserve to be captured more frequently, like dance, street theatre and experimental music. And arts organisations are still experiencing a death by a thousand cuts. Coverage of this year’s National Day for the Arts came to no more than a whimper. The media needs to keep its foot on the pedal. After all, the arts is what makes us a society, a civilisation, rather than an economy.

If you are an artist, how do you feel the media treats artists? What do you feel the media can do to give more coverage to the arts?

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