, the online presence of The Oregonian newspaper (both owned by Advance Publications), has made what appears to be a big misstep with their arts coverage by launching a thinly veiled attempt to woo the Portland metro theatre community with a non-critical, insider-based blog (hey, isn't that what Followspot
is for?) that dangerously blurs the line between editorial and advertorial.
From the OregonLive.com's Marketing Manager, Kelly Johnson, in a Sept. 14 press release:
The local theatre community will be supported by a new blog named "On Stage," hosted on OregonLive.com. The exact URL of the site is blog.oregonlive.com/onstage. Six contributors from the local theatre community are the co-authors of the blog, which offers readers the opportunity to comment to any post at any time. The goal of the blog is to provide information about theatre companies, productions and news to the greater Oregon and SW Washington community, as well as provide a vehicle for discussion.
Contributors are Winston Goodbody, Patrick Wohlmut, Thom Trick, Kristan Seemal, Francesca Sanders, and Tim Krause. Each contributor is active in the local theatre and arts community.
Notice something about this list? 4 out of 6 of the "On Stage" blog contributing writers have official affiliations with a Portland theatre company (Goodbody is a board member at CoHo; Krause is Marketing Director at Miracle; Trick is PR and Publications Manager at Portland Center Stage and Seemal is Patron and Corporate Development Associate for PCS), and the other two (Wohlmut and Sanders) are Portland-based directors and writers, respectively; they will be contributing to the O's new blog completely pro bono. (for the record, as an affiliated freelance writer for WW, I also work as a part-time consultant for Chamber Music Northwest and freelance in the region as a professional singer, writer and stage director)
Perhaps it's because the O, which trumpets itself as an arts coverage titan and spends beaucoup bucks on arts sponsorships, wants to continue to divert attention from what its arts editorial pages so obviously lack: a consistent, critical voice to dedicated solely to covering Portland's exciting burgeoning theater scene. Sure, Grant Butler, Marty Hughley and Richard Wattenberg offer theater reviews and features in fits and starts, but it's appalling that Oregon's largest newspaper would continue to neglect the theater community by not hiring one full-time staff writer devoted exclusively to a theater beat. Classical music, film, pop music, television and the visual arts are all covered by full-time staffers, who also write their own blogs. (And Willamette Week
and Portland Mercury
at least have, in Ben Waterhouse and Alison Hallett, two writers dedicated to covering the theater beat in print and online.)
The O's new masturbatory blog—the longest post of which is an extended commercial by Krause for an upcoming Miracle Theatre show—may be their attempt to atone for this error. If so, it looks to be terribly misguided, and does no one—least of all the Portland arts community—any favors.