How to Cover the Arts on Any Beat

DEADLINE: April 5, 2019
TEACHING DATE: May 5-7, 2019
LOCATION: The Poynter Institute
COST: Free for selected applicants

For years, local news organizations under financial strain have cut back on arts coverage or eliminated their arts staff altogether. Features writers and beat reporters are asked to pick up the coverage in newsrooms, while writers dedicated to covering the arts are left to navigate the freelance world.

Forgotten in the churn? The fact that journalism can propel an arts ecosystem in vibrant communities. Local audiences crave information about the shifting culture in their communities — and about what exhibit, show or style they should try out this weekend. As with weather or sports, the arts can bridge cultural divides and keep audiences engaged.

This free, intensive workshop will help resource-strapped reporters and editors recognize why their communities need them to cover the arts — and how they can do it when it’s not already part of their beats. Participants will learn creative and sustainable approaches to incorporating arts coverage in business, features and breaking news stories.

Join lead faculty Tom Huang, assistant managing editor at the Dallas Morning News and editing fellow at The Poynter Institute, for two fast-paced days of learning both in the Poynter classroom and in the creative community of St. Petersburg, Florida.


Tom Huang
Assistant Managing Editor
Dallas Morning News

Stephanie Hayes
Deputy Editor, Features
Tampa Bay Times

Eric Deggans
TV Critic

Deborah Vankin
Arts Reporter
Los Angeles Times

Randy Cohen
Vice President of Research and Policy
Americans for the Arts

Christopher Spata
Features Reporter
Tampa Bay Times

Ren LaForme
Digital Tools Reporter

Roy Peter Clark
Senior Scholar
The Poynter Institute

Christopher Wynn
Arts & Entertainment Editor
The Dallas Morning News

Michael Granberry
Arts & Features Writer
The Dallas Morning News

You will learn:

  • How to cover the business of the arts — understanding and examining arts organization’s budgets and financial records, as well as their strategies for growing audience and their challenges and opportunities as nonprofits.
  • How to cover broader trends in the arts — examining how arts organizations are appealing to younger demographics; analyzing the economic and social impact of the arts on a city; understanding which arts sectors are in growth or decline.
  • How to ramp up your arts coverage online and through social media. This will include diversifying reporting and writing about local and traveling exhibits and performances with a features approach rather than arts criticism.
  • How to produce the arts feature or profile. What kind of research, reporting, interviewing and observation does it take to produce a compelling feature story about an artist or arts organization?
  • How to find the untold stories — recognizing interesting arts leaders and arts personalities, especially those in diverse and undercovered communities.
  • How to take it home — identifying stories each journalist can work with their editors and colleagues to produce at home.


4 p.m. — Welcome (Tom Huang)

4:30 p.m. — Make it Sing: Tuning Your Voice to the Creative Community (Roy Peter Clark)

6:00 p.m. — Dinner and Keynote: “Tales from the Front Lines: Tips, Tricks and Insight from 15 Years as an Arts + Culture journalist” (Deborah Vankin, Tom Huang)

10:00 a.m. — Group Tour of the Salvador Dali Museum

11:45 p.m. — Lunch at Poynter

12:45 p.m. — Slicing and Dicing the Arts World: Different Entry Points into Covering the Broad Arts World for a News or Business Readership (Deborah Vankin)

2:00 p.m. — Break

2:15 p.m. — Covering the Arts on the Features Beat (Stephanie Hayes and Christopher Spata)

3:30 p.m. — Break

3:45 p.m. — The Impact of the Arts on Society and Economy (Randy Cohen)

5:30 p.m. — Community Reception

6:15 p.m. — Community Dinner

7:30 p.m. — Community Conversation: The Arts and The News (Stephanie Hayes)

9:00 a.m. — Exploring the Intersection of the Arts, Culture and Race (Eric Deggans)

10:30 a.m. — Break

10:45 a.m. — Using Social Media to Build Your Audience for the Arts ( Ren LaForme)

12:00 p.m. — Lunch

1:00 p.m. — Taking it Home (Tom Huang)

2:00 p.m. — Graduation and farewells


The workshop will take place at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Who should apply

  • Editors and reporters in news, business, arts and features departments in local multiplatform newsrooms, all of whom will recognize important stories in the local arts and develop the ability to report on arts stories.
  • Freelance writers who contribute stories about the coverage of the arts in local news organizations.
  • Educators and students who are interested in arts journalism as a potential career path.

Application process

The process to apply is straightforward and simple. No letter of recommendation is required, but you will need to provide a reference. Please be prepared to answer questions about your professional experience, areas of interests and basic demographic information.  


Thanks to generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, tuition for the full workshop is free. This includes most meals, two nights in a hotel, and partial travel stipends for accepted applicants.


We’d love to hear from you. Email us at

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