After four and a half years of dedicating a full-time section to the stories of high school arts, The Orange County Register has decided to discontinue the Varsity Arts section beginning Sept. 24.
According to The Register, Varsity Arts is being discontinued as a result of low readership and audience engagement for the section.
“News organizations must be responsive to their readers and commit their finite resources to the areas of coverage that provide the greatest service to readers,” said Jeffrey Miller, Features editor of The OC Register. “Sometimes this means making the hard decision to discontinue a feature or section that has only a small, albeit devoted, following.”
Miller also says that in a comprehensive survey of over 10,000 print readers, most said they rarely or never read Varsity Arts.
A major concern for many educators and students is the future of Cappies, a program centered on student journalism and promoting fine arts. Through Cappies, high school students are able to write reviews and get them published in local newspapers. Students in Orange County, including students from Northwood, had their reviews published in the Varsity Arts section of The Register.
According to senior Hilary Lee, a lead critic for Cappies, The Register has decided to continue publishing Cappies reviews, but they will limit the number of reviews published to just one per week. Lee says that this will make it tougher for Cappies critics to be published by The Register because each critic will likely have to compete with the other critics attending the same show and those attending the four or five other shows in a given week in order to get published.
“With Varsity Arts shutting down, it’s definitely going to be a lot harder to be published as a Cappie,” Lee said. “I’m personally a little upset with Varsity Arts closing. It was always an interesting perspective to see what other high school theatres were doing and to see how other Cappies interpreted these shows.”
Drama teacher Danyelle Dunavold, one of two Cappies mentor critics at Northwood, says that she is concerned by the effects that the discontinuation of Varsity Arts can have on the opportunity for students to get published.
“A big part of what I teach is aesthetically valuing theater and how to write about it,” Dunavold said. “If my students don’t have [the idea of being published] to look forward to, it makes me really sad because I’ve never been a theater arts educator without that opportunity for my kids.”
While Varsity Arts may be ending, readers can still look forward to reading at least one Cappie review per week and other articles about student artists in other sections of The Register.
“The Register covered significant and interesting stories about high school artists before the advent of Varsity Arts and will continue to do so,” Miller said.