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

Wasserman, Herman (2004-04)

CITATION: Wasserman, H. 2014. Revisiting reviewing : the need for a debate on the role of arts journalism in South Africa. Literator, 25(1): 139-158, doi: 10.4102/lit.v25i1.249.

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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 indepth 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.

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