Is There a Learning Curve (Pass the Hors d’Oeuvres)?

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.

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

One thought on “Is There a Learning Curve (Pass the Hors d’Oeuvres)?

  1. areguero

    If cocktail hour the other day taught me anything, it’s that even New York reporters need some work. The article in the Sun about the program was simple and felt like an insult if not amusing. And, the reporter took valuable schmoozing time away from my classmates. My class is full of talented, interesting students, which is something the article failed to capture. It’s no wonder we ended up on Gawker. Thanks, Randy, for articulating your experience.

    Syracuse University’s arts journalism program was designed for two kinds of students. The first kind of student would have experience in journalism and an interest in the arts. They would come to school to supplement their understanding of the arts. The second kind of student has a background in the arts and needs to gain journalism skills. I’m the second kind of student. I’m a clarinetist straight out of Eastman. I came to Newhouse to improve my writing, learn about journalism and make connections in the arts journalism world. Cocktail hour for me was a way to get my name out to the exact publications I hope to write for one day.

    From a summer of writing on topics such as the polluted wading pool in downtown Syracuse to the latest shooting occurring five minutes from where I reside at school, I’ve learned that a journalist should be able to write on any topic. You learn the value of research and that a good question paired with sentiment for the human experience will get you far.

    This being said, I don’t think I could write about music without the knowledge I have from almost 20 years of training. I’m not sure how successful Newhouse or Syracuse University can be at giving someone a core understanding of an art form in one short year. We’ll find out come June.

    I was relieved to have both Randy and Molly come to the cocktail event, even with last minute invitations, to bring both their knowledge of music/journalism, and their down-to-earth attitudes about music (both qualities I hope will rub off on me during my internship).

    Though I’m young and inexperienced, I ask that the readers of New Music Box understand that I’m gaining valuable experience with every article I write, and that I’m learning as I go. I’m bubbling inside to work with such wonderful people and looking forward to swan diving into the new music world.


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