Thursday, December 16, 2010

Accounting for missing posts: I'm blaming something called Oregon Arts Watch

By Barry Johnson

We have some pretty long pauses here at Arts Dispatch -- maybe you've noticed. That's not because we don't have stuff on our minds just begging to escape to the free world. No, sometimes business intervenes and the old brainpan gets pretty clogged with fragments of half-remembered thoughts!

Sometimes that business is a freelance assignment or two. I've written a couple of short articles for my old colleague Randy Gragg at Portland Monthly, for example, the first, on choreographer Mary Oslund, is due out in January. But mostly I've been plugging away at starting something I'm calling Oregon Arts Watch, as I've written here before, an arts journalism non-profit.

Very soon, I'm going to post the details of that project here. But you can get some idea of what it's all about from two reputable sources. The first is a series of six columns that Michael "Portland Afoot" Andersen and I wrote for Launch Pad, an entrepreneurial journalism feature of the on-line version of the Columbia Journalism Review. We discussed our efforts to get our journalism projects off the ground, devoting each column to a separate issue, from the technical (Michael has the goods on useful software for journalism start-ups, believe me!) to the philosophical (where I hold forth in my typically gassy way), and several points in between. I especially liked our collaboration on failure. The format is just a conversation, back and forth, Michael to me to Michael, which we conducted on Etherpad, an excellent, open-source, online tool for this sort of thing.

The second reputable source is the result of some good fortune: Oregon Arts Watch was lucky to receive a New Voices grant this year.  New Voices is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, which funds "innovative, participatory news experiments,"  and it is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  Part of the grant is a regular report on the progress of the project, and J-Lab has just published the first one on Oregon Arts Watch, written by Lori Grisham. Because it's the first, it also includes some of the basic ingredients of the model we're trying to launch.

I'm intending to give you a fuller account of the project in a few days, primarily because I want your thoughts about it all. And maybe even your support, if you agree with me that it's necessary and might even work!  Meanwhile, I'll try to keep a better flow going to Arts Dispatch, if only because I'm worried that those jagged shards of thoughts will migrate to my vital organs...

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