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Journalist Spotlight | Interview with Rohan Shearn, Managing Editor at Australian Arts Review

17 March, 2024

Today, Medianet is joined by Rohan Shearn, Managing Editor of the Australian Arts Review. In this interview, Rohan shares his journey from being a Manager for various theatre companies to the inception of his publication.


RohanShearnBefore becoming the Managing Editor for the Australian Arts Review, you worked as a General Manager for various theatre companies. Have you always wanted to be an arts writer/what prompted this shift in profession?

As a general manager in a small theatre company, I was afforded the opportunity to gain and develop a variety of skills in the day-to-day operations. You also do a lot of writing (reports, strategic plans, media releases etc). I was also responsible for the maintenance of the company website. In between roles, I also had the opportunity to be an arts reviewer for several outlets. 

When I returned to Melbourne in 2012, I was keen to explore other opportunities in the creative industries. From this came the Australian Arts Review – which has allowed me to not only draw on my previous work experience but also provide a satisfying work/life balance.


The advent of social media is rapidly changing the arts review/recommendation culture. What has been the biggest challenge for you and the Australian Arts Review, and how have you overcome/adapted to the changes?

Social media has been a blessing and a curse. The opportunity to reach a wider audience that interacts with your content has been great. If they like it, they will share it on their networks. If they don’t, their reaction is swift. 

The rise of the ‘influencer’ has the potential to have an impact on what we do. However, I do believe they have a part to play too. It needs to be managed, and not at the expense of traditional media outlets – there needs to be a balance. Arts Review is always looking at new ways of delivering content that is interesting and accessible.


How have you seen the attitudes towards live performance art change throughout your career?

Australian audiences have always loved an engaging story but there will always be a shift in values, beliefs, and behaviours as one generation replaces another. There have been concerning trends of condemning previous works that didn’t reflect today’s community attitudes when we should take the opportunity to learn and understand what made these works so popular when they were first produced. 

Since the pandemic, there has been a reset of sorts, where presenting companies have emphasised the art of good storytelling. There has also been a pleasing shift to the programming of First Nations stories in annual seasons.


In your opinion, how and why does the institution of the theatre endure in the face of a myriad of streaming and online content? 

Audiences still want a live experience – they crave it - because there is nothing like being in a venue where all the emotional elements come together as one. Online content doesn’t offer that experience.


What has been the most memorable experience of your career to date?

Seeing how far Arts Review has developed from its inception to where it is today. Also, the Opening Night of Disney’s Aladdin in Sydney several years ago and the electric atmosphere that was experienced from the mid-show standing ovation to Michael James Scott’s performance as the Genie in the ‘Friend like me’ number – I have never seen such a reaction in my career!


Is there any work from you or content from the Australian Arts Review we should be keeping an eye out for?

Our On the Couch feature. We initially started with one a week. We now run it each day to meet the demand, as it allows the artist to respond in their own voice. Over the years, we’ve had some very interesting and surprising responses.


And lastly, what do you look for in content pitching?

Arts Review is such a broad church, so we aim to publish an interesting mix of content each day. The initial pitch should be concise and highlight some key factors such as key personnel and subject matter. 

We also have a commitment to supporting emerging artists. If the subject matter is interesting, we will seriously look at it.

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