NATIONAL ARTS JOURNALISM PROGRAM was launched in 1994 on
the initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts to advance the quantity
and quality of arts coverage in the press. During the “culture
wars” years, inadequate news coverage had contributed to apathy
about the arts at a time when artists, art institutions, and the
idea of government arts funding were coming under attack.
The NAJP was designed to meet these concerns by offering
professional development to journalists in all arts fields, in the
hope that improved skills and communication among them would lead
to more comprehensive and informed arts coverage and, ultimately,
greater public appreciation of the arts. The NAJP followed the model
of existing journalism fellowship programs, notably the Nieman
Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University , that allow
arts writers to take time out from deadline pressures to deepen
their knowledge and develop new skills and contacts. What made NAJP
unique was its sole focus on the arts. The program’s larger
aims pointed beyond journalism – toward engagement with timely
issues in culture.
In its first three years, the program was based at
School of Journalism at Northwestern University. A dozen journalists
were housed in groups of three on four campuses in addition to Northwestern
– the University
of Georgia, Columbia
University, and the University
of Southern California in Los Angeles. The fellows took classes
and worked on practicum projects with local arts organizations.
They came together twice a year and contributed to a jointly published
Consolidated at Columbia
The award of a second three-year grant from The
Pew Charitable Trusts led to several key changes. In 1997 the
program was consolidated at Columbia University's Graduate
School of Journalism, in association with Columbia's
School of the Arts, under an expanded management team and staff.
In the ensuing years the NAJP’s broadened its reach and developed
into a full-fledged academic center.
Ambitious research publications examined the state
of arts coverage in newspapers and television. National conferences,
such as the “Who
Owns Culture?” symposium on cultural property and patrimony,
as well as smaller panel discussions and lectures brought together
journalists with artists, academic experts and cultural executives.
NAJP launched a series of occasional reports containing
transcripts of public events. The NAJP journal appeared with an
award-winning new design and under a new title, ARTicles.
After 1998 senior fellows were accepted into the program for three-month
writing residencies. These nationally recognized writers worked
on books, gave public lectures, and offered mentorship to their
mid-career colleagues. A traveling component was added to the program
as cohorts of alumni visited New Orleans and Havana. Under a third
three-year Pew grant, the NAJP expanded further and stepped up its
convening and publications activities.
Among the milestones of this period were major conferences,
such as The
New Gatekeepers symposium on freedom of expression in the arts,
and the launch of an unprecedented series of surveys of arts-journalism
disciplines, including The Visual Art Critic and The Architecture
Critic. Some projects were based on the work of NAJP Research Fellows
who substituted their practicum with arts organizations with contributions
to research studies and conferences.
By 2002 the NAJP had grown into a nationally and
internationally recognized center for arts journalism – the
only one of its kind in the world. The number of fellows and alumni
had surpassed 100; almost as many attended NAJP’s second reunion
in San Francisco in the summer of 2002. In recent years, the program
has continued to change and evolve. No longer a Pew Charitable Trusts
initiative, the NAJP now receives support from a range of funders.
All NAJP fellows currently accepted into the program are mid-career
journalists who, as research fellows, collaborate with the NAJP
on research projects and public events. Midcareer fellows join the
NAJP for one-semester residencies in the spring.
NAJP’s latest research venture is Reporting
the Arts II, the first study to document the gradual decline
of arts coverage in the news media, which drew on the work of some
40 NAJP fellows and alumni, including the entire class of 2003-2004
fellows. The 2004-2005 fellows are contributing to public events
at Columbia, including panel discussions and conferences on pop-music
criticism, differences between European and American models of Arts
journalism, and a survey of recent arts-and-cultural research.
The most significant changes in the program in recent years have
been the addition of short-term training programs for larger groups
of arts writers and continuing internationalization of the NAJP.
With support from the National
Endowment for the Arts, the NAJP in fall 2004 organized the
first Arts Journalism Institute for writers who cover classical
music and opera. The participants came from 20 U.S. states, all
from outside the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Since
2002 the program has also been accepting international fellows,
with support from their counties of origin, and groups of NAJP fellows
and alumni have continued to visit destinations abroad for study
tours organized by the visited countries.
Starting in the fall of 2005, the NAJP will operate
at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism alongside a new
Master of Arts program in arts journalism. Today, with an alumni
and fellow network of over 130 journalists spread throughout
the country and in all branches of the news media, the NAJP is the
nation’s leading authority on arts journalism. But the challenges
that the program was formed to meet are as pressing as ever. Through
its fellows, alumni, publications and programs, the NAJP will continue
to advance best practices in the field and to work with the press
toward a more rigorous, better informed public debate about the
arts in America.
: About Us : History