Regina Hackett, the longtime art critic at the Seattle P-I, which recently laid off all but twenty staffers and ceased publishing a print edition, has joined Lee Rosenbaum (CultureGrrl) over at Arts Journal, the daily digest of arts news and commentary. Hackett and Arts Journal’s editor Douglas McLennan used to work together when he was an arts writer for the P-I, so moving to Arts Journal was a no-brainer for Hackett.
According to Hackett, whom I spoke with yesterday from my faculty office in dreary Willimantic, Connecticut, blogging changed her life. �I used to get up in the morning knowing that no one cared what I wrote, very few people read it–and I was fine with that. I didn�t see the big picture. I was too busy crafting my little sentences to lift my head and look around me. When I started writing the blog, I realized I could have an impact. There was an immediate connection with a larger audience that you don�t have when you work at a regional newspaper.�
And Hackett says she won�t miss the click-counting mentality at the P-I, where Art To Go astounded the newspaper’s suits by garnering over 60,000 hits a month. No more stories about American Idol and other pop culture stat bait. Her new blog, dubbed Another Bouncing Ball from a line in Delmore Schwartz’s poem “The Ballad of the Children of the Czar,” will concentrate on more in-depth reviews, with plenty of images. She looks forward to finding a larger audience for Northwest artists, and joining the larger art dialog on occasion. Naturally, I wondered how Arts Journal pays the bloggers.”Well,” she paused. “They�ve just started putting ads on the blogs. That should lead to some revenues�although not enough, according to CultureGrrl.”
Hackett�s modest severance package will keep her afloat for the time being while she looks for other revenue sources. Unlike other P-I staffers who were devastated by the layoffs, Hackett is electrified about the future, primarily because she sees so much potential in the evolving blog format. For regional art criticism, Hackett believes that traditional newspapers are useless, but blogging and other online formats offer new opportunities to engage a wider audience, promote artists and help regional arts organizations. “Arts Journal is moving in the direction of online regional arts coverage, and it’s going to be really big. Lots of advertising.” Now that daily print newspapers are dying, Hackett is sure it�s just a matter of time before advertisers turn to blogs and other online publications to promote their products and services.
In addition to the blog, book projects are underway. Hunting Requires Optimism (titled after a Vanessa Renwick installation) examines contemporary landscape in the Northwest, and another is about the work Jacob Lawrence produced after he moved to Seattle in 1970. �I�ve got about ten more years, give or take, to do some interesting work,� Hackett told me. �I want to make them count.”