Home » Issue 016 Jan '12, Opinions

Startjournal.org’s hits and misses: Celebrating the one-year anniversary of being online

Posted by start 15 December 2011 One Comment

Start has succeeded in establishing an arts journal writing in-depth articles about the Ugandan art scene. We have kept our frequency and given around fifty independent writers a site to express themselves thoroughly about the arts. We have kept the variety in types of articles; the reviews, the interviews, the investigation and the more promotional story. But we still have a long way to go.

Written by Thomas Bjørnskau, editor of startjournal.org

As the editor I have the final responsibility for this product. I will point out five areas where I feel Startjournal.org has failed, and would like to hear from you where to go next.

One of Start's founding members, Henry Mzili Mujunga, at This is Uganda-festival

The Misses

1. Not reaching out to all the readers

Our goal was 1,000 subscribers and followers before the end of 2011. Currently, our numbers are 400 subscribers being notified by email and 510 being notified by Facebook-wall.

It is close, but no cigar.

I have been insisting on not adding people to our email-list without their consent, or not attracting facebook-clickers with cheap prizes. The ones who wants to follow us should do so because they can’t live without Start.

But knowing how many in this region that need arts and culture, that live for arts and culture, I feel our stories should matter to more.

How to reach out? Please comment.

2. Not keeping and engaging our readers.

Primarily, Startjournal.org is neither for our writers to get their article out, nor for our subjects – the artists – to get their story out.

It is for our readers to get involved in the future of arts and culture. The reader – you – should be informed, impressed, inspired, intrigued, and maybe a couple of other verbs starting with ’i’. Like irritated and infuriated.

But never indifferent.

A critical, analytical journal should make a difference. For all the creative industries it covers. And we’re not there yet.

Can you please tell us how?

3. Failing to replicate our passionate coverage of visual arts to other art forms

We do believe the common denominator for what Start writes about is creative people engaged in any art forms. However, since the journal has been established by visual artists, executors of the fine arts, this has been the focal point of Startjournal’s crtitques.

Many Ugandan artists are multidisciplinary. And artists struggle with the same challenges. It makes sense to cover the broader issues.

And sometimes, as a recent review of a breakdance-event shows, it makes sense to balance the coverage of other art forms we introduce. Give the passionate, knowledgeable insiders a publishing platform to address the industry from their own standpoint.

The literature scene, the poets and creative writers. The performing arts such as theatre and dance. Moving images like films, video and television. The music scene with all its genres. Creative industries like graphical design and animation, architecture, fashion, product design.

Any professional who exist to be a corrective to politicians, legislators or businesspersons.

How should Start embrace your dedication?

Start promoting the journal at LaBa!-festival, 2011.

4. Not always having the nerve to critique

We have dared to point out one or two aspects in some of the events that could be have been done in another way. It has even triggered the ones being criticized to engage in a discussion online.

But we have been too kind.

Every artist I have talked to about the art of critiquing has mentioned that they need to hear the feedback they really don’t want to hear.

Start’s writers should have a corrective voice, always opposing the subject matter, never take anything for granted. The alternatives are either pure promotional reviews or silence. Artists will prosper from neither of these.

5. Not adapted the styles of online writing

Startjournal may still feel like print articles published online. We have started to involve some of our writers in ”how to write for the web”, but it still needs more practice.

As a critical journal focusing on in-depth, analytical stories, it is difficult to keep the reader engaged for the full 2000 words article.

How to make every sentence matter?

Please address our questions. And remember, it is also encouraging to hear some favorable comments too.

Thomas Bjørnskau is the editor of Startjournal.org

Start's own webmaster and technical guru Jantien Zuurbier promoting at This is Uganda

 

One Comment »

  • Mukiibi Osman said:

    I liked your vision when i read it but sometimes you do the opposite of it.
    One of start’s misses comes from employing unprofessional writers like Dominic Muwanguzi who critiques subjects that he doesn’t even have basic knowledge about. Thats one of the reasons I can’t subscribe to this journal. I think you have good reviews on visual arts because thats what your writers are passionate about. I can tell that they have a lot of experience and knowledge in that field.

    If you want to write about other artforms, please get writers who know about those artforms/fields. If you don’t do so, you’ll keep on impressing visual artists and disappointing artists in other areas. I agree that you have succeeded in writing in-depth articles about the Ugandan art scene BUT that’s only in the visual arts.

    I read a number of articles on this website and realised that your critiquing is sided.
    It favours some events/artists/organisers. You need to draw a line between work and friendship. You also need to be bold enough to criticize events like Bayimba festival, This is Uganda, Laba Street art festival etc Not only breakdance/hiphop events or artists that are not in your network of friends. Everyone can see through you if they have attended all these different events.

    I’m looking forward to reading a start journal article on the recent 2011 “This is Uganda festival”. This will show how fair or unfair you are. After reading it i’ll compare it to the “Raw expression” breakdance event article that you published. You published the most misleading article about “Breakdance Project Uganda” and it’s event.

    Start journal is a good initiative and can be a great platform if it gets fair and more professional. The other artforms also deserve as much time, respect and passion as you give to visual arts. You need writers who can go below the surface.
    Peace.