Thanks to Clive Davis for including Playgoer in his op-ed in praise of arts blogging for the Times of London.
Davis, a Conservative-leaning arts critic, is also a pretty hip blogger. (And, yes, the Times is a Murdoch-owned venture. But typical of Davis's fairness is his interest in the free speech debate surrounding "Rachel Corrie" while totally objecting to that play's politics.)
More notable than his Playgoer plug, though, is Davis' eloquent case for the value of an alternative criticism.
Arts centres roll out their latest, best-ever autumn season, publicists prime journalists with advance copies of the latest Great American Novel, press junkets give reporters ten minutes each with Ewan McGregor. At its best, the system helps the informed reader to sort the gold from the dross. At its worst, it degenerates into an exercise in log-rolling. And as newspapers expand into ever larger, multi-section entities, critical voices grow more and more diffuse. Blogs, at least in these early, innocent days, add a nonconformist voice to the conversation. While some of the more messianic members of the online “community” talk of overthrowing the “dead tree” media, the real function of blogging is that it supplements mainstream output (without which most blogs, whether they admit to it or not, would wither away overnight).
As someone who regularly criticizes the NY Times, for instance, I couldn't agree more about this relationship between the "real" media and the "supplementary" conversation that has grown around it in the blogosphere. Moreover, I agree that the A-list media as Davis describes it here, is so in need of supplement. For serious arts readers, at least.
In that spirit, let me say something positive about the NY Times. I think the reporting Campbell Robertson has been doing lately (here and here) on the corporatization of Broadway has been terrific. Only thing is, because it's the NY Times and Robertson is a "reporter", nothing can be said about this phenomenon after it has been so lucidly laid out. There seems to be no space in the Times arts pages for someone to cry out, "Shouldn't we be concerned about the effect of this on the New York, nay the American theatre?" So if there's any readership interest at all in amateur, part-time websites, it's because readers want to have that conversation. (And not just in the chaotic hatespeech zoo that is the Times.com messageboards.)