June 3, 2016
New York Times ArtsBeat blog ends its run
by Kait Howard
Nine years after the New York Times debuted ArtsBeat, its blog devoted to online cultural coverage, the paper has announced its retirement. Yesterday, in a 23,231st and final post, Times assistant editor Daniel McDermon announced that a gradual shift in the paper’s approach to digital arts reportage had prompted the decision to publish future content in the online arts section.
As McDermon explained, “the features that made the blog such an appealing alternative to our traditional publishing tools—agility, the ability to embed digital content and a chance to use a livelier voice—have largely been absorbed into the rest of our work.”
While it appears that little will change in the way the Times approaches arts coverage (the blog’s “critics, reporters and editors will continue to deliver our signature reviews, news and features”), the announcement was another reminder of how different the online landscape has become in the past decade. “It was a more innocent time,” McDermon reminds us, “before the debut of Mad Men, the arrival of Lady Gaga… Beyoncé and Jay Z had not yet married, much less taken over the cultural world.” Twitter had only just launched. Only six years earlier, our own MobyLives had metamorphosed from a pioneering publishing blog to the voice of an independent publishing house. Blogs enabled a swiftness, and a more conversational tone, that have since made their way into mainstream journalism.
One foreseeable result of ArtsBeat’s demise may be the loss of a community of readers who frequented the blog, often commenting on the latest news. McDermon closes his sendoff with a lyrical farewell penned by one avid reader, Fred Landau, whose comments over the years, often set to the tunes of popular songs, led Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to declare him a “local treasure.” To the tune of The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, Landau wrote:
Attend the end of the ArtsBeat blog
We’d check it out on our morning jog
We’d check in several times a day
And change is O.K. but we just want to say:
The ArtsBeat blog!
The leading source on the street!” (Tweet!)
“To ArtsBeat blog!” indeed. As in our mourning the end of Bookslut, it’s worth remembering here that blogging was once an art of its own. Like so many others, the Times meant to capitalize on that art. But things have changed.
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.