In today's Salt Lake Tribune, Glen Warchol reported on a meeting between leaders of Salt Lake City arts organizations and Gilbert, expressing their concern that the "new direction" of the Deseret News could result in a lack of media coverage critical to those organizations. According to the story, Gilbert came up with plenty of reassuring alternatives to actually having writers on staff to cover these organizations. He proposed the possibility of "citizen experts" for writing such stories; he even, as reported by Warchol, suggested that arts groups could "write their own advance and preview stories."
To the credit of several of those invited -- and some who weren't -- these proposals were not exactly greeted with enthusiasm. Pioneer Theatre Company marketing director Kirsten Park described the auto-promotion proposal as "problematic;" Plan-B Theatre Company's Jerry Rapier, who was not invited to the meeting, accurately identified the difference between someone who knows a subject area, and someone who knows how to write about it.
In my blog item earlier this week about the Deseret News' decision to use Catholic News Service "reviews" for its film coverage, I suggested that "real, challenging arts criticism may now be about as likely to appear in the paper as real, challenging reporting." And self-serving though it may be to suggest that critical writing skills might actually be a useful tool for those trying to inform readers about performances and other arts events, it's staggeringly depressing to see someone representing a theoretically journalistic organization essentially signing off on organizations writing their own "advertorial" copy.