The Art of Journalism

There’s a story in this issue that deserves a little bit of background.

In a piece titled “Revival,” Miriam Durkin, who was the longtime arts editor of the Observer before retiring last year, profiles Theatre Charlotte and its executive director, Ron Law. This story comes from two places. The first was a conversation I had last year with a local arts leader. At the time, the arts community — and, in lockstep, the media — was gearing up for the opening of what was then called the Wachovia Cultural Campus — the South Tryon Street complex that includes the Gantt Center, the Bechtler, the Knight Theater, and the new Mint. In a contrarian moment, this person suggested that we take a look at one of the city’s older arts groups. As an editor who likes to zig when others zag, that struck me as a grand idea.

Theatre Charlotte was the natural choice. At eighty-two, the community theater is the city’s oldest arts organization. Located in a plain cinderblock building in Myers Park for the past sixty-eight years, it was once the only theater in town. Now, it’s one of many, existing in the imposing shadow of the Blumenthal. The past two decades have been a financial struggle. But over the past five years, behind Law’s energy, enthusiasm, and creativity, it has been experiencing a mini revival. Durkin spins the tale starting on page 37.

What I like about this story is that the hard work at Theatre Charlotte has been done with neither fanfare nor public assistance. On Tryon Street, after all the grants and tax dollars and capital campaigns are tallied, a brand-new museum (the Bechtler) will end up with a $5 million endowment and NC Dance Theatre with an $8.5 million rehearsal facility. That’s $8.5 million for a building that, essentially, is not open to the public. While I believe, and have written, that the arts facilities campaign is a brilliant, game-changing move for Charlotte, I still find it odd that the city’s oldest arts group, which serves 12,500 citizens a year, has been left to plow ahead on its own, with only the Arts & Science Council as a partner (albeit a valuable one). Odd, but also refreshing.

But I said this story comes from two places. Five years ago, as Theatre Charlotte’s incoming board president, I served on the committee that made the recommendation to hire Ron Law. I then served alongside Ron as board president for two years. So I saw this story unfold firsthand. I haven’t been involved with the group since 2008, but I still hesitated to assign this story. Journalists are taught to remain objective, to not get involved with the stories they report. While I did not report this one, I did edit the story, and I was a part of it at one point. But then I said the hell with it. A story’s a story. And part of the problem with journalism today is that so many journalists have removed themselves from so many stories that they don’t know what is really going on out there.

But now I’m onto a larger topic. Let’s take this online, shall we? Check my blog Trade & Tryon for more thoughts on the state of journalism. I hope you’ll share your thoughts, too.

Categories: Editor’s Note, Opinion, The Buzz