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Study finds newspapers cover less cultural arts

Wednesday, November 17, 1999

By Caroline Abels, Post-Gazette Cultural Arts Writer

In the arts and entertainment sections of American newspapers, the "E" in A&E has more prominence than the "A," according to a study by Columbia University's National Arts Journalism Program.

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Access the full NAJP report at


Newspapers, the study found, favor coverage of popular culture, such as movies, TV and pop music, over cultural arts, notably dance, architecture and visual arts. Though the arts have bloomed this decade and appear to be thriving, newspapers haven't matched the expansion with similar increase in staff or space inside the newspaper, according to the study.

In general, however, the cultural arts beat was found to be bigger than the NAJP expected, even though nearly half the coverage consisted of listings in weekend supplements rather than news articles or reviews.

The report, released yesterday, examined the October 1998 arts sections of newspapers in 10 markets, including Cleveland, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, and Charlotte, N.C. Pittsburgh was not included.

On average, the arts sections in these markets' major newspapers encompassed fewer pages than other sections, such as sports or business. Movies took up an average of 24 percent of space within the sections, followed by music at 17 percent, books at 16 percent, TV at 12 percent, performing arts at 11 percent, visual art at 6 percent, and other stories at 14 percent.

The report suggested that grouping arts coverage with entertainment or lifestyle stories (on topics such as food, fashion or gardening) is helping to make the arts more palatable to advertisers and readers.

"Arts and feature editors tell of support from their superiors for a robust commitment to arts coverage -- in the context of feature, entertainment, recreational and 'leisure' packages," the report stated. "The success of these sections with readers and advertisers has much to do with their populist, mass-entertainment tilt."

The study also found that:

Newspapers relied heavily on free-lance critics to review local arts events.

Arts news was rare, primarily, the report said, because arts coverage was so concentrated in weekend listings.

The visual arts received scant coverage unless a blockbuster exhibit was in town.

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