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What the New York Times tells people who dislike its classical roundup

December 13, 2016 by norman lebrecht

32 comments.


A reader complained that the new roundup feature is taking the space once allocated to concert reviews. He cited two New York Philharmonic concerts in a week that went uncovered. This was the creepy response:

Hi (name withheld)

Thank you for reaching out, and thank you for your feedback. I understand your frustration with the changes we’re making, but they’re necessary to keeping up with the current, fast-paced arts climate.

The redesign of the daily arts and Weekend sections reflects an investment in arts coverage and a commitment to giving readers the best experience possible on all platforms, especially print.

The changes have all been made with the goal of being a more engaging and useful resource for readers, who are confronted with more information and options than ever before. Being more intentional in our coverage, and delivering stories and reviews with the visual emphasis they deserve enhances engagement and tells readers that what they are reading matters.

Thank you for being a valued subscriber.

Kristen Stanley,

Customer Care Advocate

The New York Times

 


Comments (32)

  1. Michael says:

    That is the canned response to end all canned responses. 3 full paragraphs, but they said nothing. The New York Times is clearly a sinking ship, but I no longer care. With their fake news stories, slanted coverage, lack of any research, lack of coverage there is no way I would read anything they publish. They now are no better then the National Enquirer. It’s been many months since I’ve even touched them. The sooner they go under, the better.

    1. Olassus says:

      She said, “visual emphasis,” which tells us something. NYPO isn’t visual.

    2. Holly Golightly says:

      I’d have to totally agree with this. It’s the flagship of the ‘progressive’ Left (read ‘regressive’) and its criminally unbalanced coverage of the US election means it forfeits its right to credibility in the public space.

      1. jaypee says:

        Oh, shut up, will you?
        Your orange hero won. You have what you wanted. Now get lost.

      2. Dan P. says:

        It’s awfully easy to call news sources names when they present news one doesn’t want to hear. A newspaper is only a newspaper. Just because they get something wrong or present an opinion you don’t like doesn’t make them criminal. If it did, the New York Post would be publishing from jail. The phrase “rights to credibility” is, of course, meaningless. Of course, you have the right not to read it, but you don’t have the right to prevent others from doing so.

      3. William Safford says:

        If a person reads your postings and does the opposite, he or she will live a virtuous and enlightened life.

    3. William Safford says:

      If your comment is limited to the classical music coverage, then I’m interested to read your substantiation of your allegations. I certainly share the dismay of others at the contraction of classical music coverage in the NY Times, but I know nothing about “fake news stories” and such.

      If, however, your comment is political in nature, then you and people like you are part of the problem, not the solution.

      Conservatives, and their false pope Trump, exist in a fact-free bubble. For just one example, climate change deniers deny facts about global warming in the same way that tobacco company executives once denied the connection between smoking and cancer — and using many of the same lobbyists and operatives and techniques!

      I fear for our country.

  2. Graeme Hall says:

    God how awful.

  3. Beckmesser says:

    I used to read – and respect – the NY Times’ coverage of classical music. But that was years ago. New York itself isn’t quite as central as it once was.

    1. jaxon says:

      People do love to tell themselves that “New York isn’t as central as it once was.”

  4. tooafraidtosayinpublic says:

    Can someone tell me how this is “creepy?” NYC is a city full of a lot of events, they’re trying to balance what they can. Not everything is about any one individual’s desire. If we were all to write in about this, every day, for the next year (or really any period of time, before we moved on to the next perceived slight of classical music), then they would change, I’m sure. Or perhaps give you the coveted personal attention that you desire. There are many fine blogs, like this very one, perhaps you should start one. If you have opinions on concerts, I welcome the opportunity to read about them. I read all of the news about our industry that I can, and it does no good to wish things were like they used to be. No, a blog is not the same as the Times reviewing every single best concert every week, but things are changing. Get onboard or gather all your friends to write form letters back to them. Do *something.*

    1. Ross says:

      They’re not “trying to balance what they can.”
      They continuously ignore classical concerts attended by thousands, for multiple shows a week.
      And they use all their resources to cover events attended by tiny crowds.

    2. Dan P. says:

      I think what’s creepy about it is that it is an answer from what has been the national newspaper of record is nothing more than a self-serving, content-less response from a corporate shill, the abiding theory being, if you don’t say anything, then there is nothing to be responsible for.

      I’ve been reading the Times since the 1960s as a kid in a small town far away from New York. The loss here is not just for concert reviews, but as a single point of contact that, together with reports on theater, ballet, books, architecture, and whatever else expresses a holistic view of the arts that a simple blog cannot do.

      But fewer and fewer people are interested in reading newspapers, and it seems even fewer still care to read about the arts – especially music. As we go into the 2020s, music is becoming more of a niche interest of the few rather than the city’s cultural backbone that it once was. In short, letters to the Times are well meant, but essentially a waste of time. As many have noticed, the New York Times is gradually fading away year after a year, like someone’s beloved grandmother.

    3. Saxon Broken says:

      The problem isn’t the a lack of content on the web, there are hundreds and hundreds of reviews (mostly amateur, muddled, ill-informed, and ill-thought-out). The problem is that it is not “authoritative”, so I have no idea which reviews I should give attention to. And those blogs which do have reviews by “authoritative” writers, which should perhaps include this site, usually are single author sites and hence can review very little. A major newspaper is a badge that the review (or more generally a news item or opinion) has been thought out and has some validity and has been made by an expert. Even if one disagrees with the view expressed.

  5. Eric says:

    I read the NY Times in print and on my iPad. Certain days, I download the edition on my iPad for my morning train commute (no wireless access). What I find most irritating is that I used to be able to read anything without the signal, since it was downloaded already. BUT….the new arts section, including the new classical music round-up, only is accessible via signal, I cannot read it on my iPad unless I have a WiFi connection. In the past, orgs like the Times would keep track of traffic and readership analytics…it’s harder to do if they change the format on this service.

    1. Holly Golightly says:

      What signal would that be? Surely the virtue signal.

  6. Der Fliegende Amerikaner says:

    As a loyal NYT subscriber for the past 22 years, I was about to write a message asking them why they didn’t publish a review of last week’s Met’s revival opening of Salome. I assume the above would have been the canned response I would have gotten.

    I’ll be checking to see over the next few days if they will publish a review of last night’s Met’s revival opening of Nabucco. I heard Domingo on the online broadcast last night he didn’t sound horrible.

    By the way, the seats for “New York Times are in the orchestra: Row L, Seats 1 and 3”:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/arts/music/zachary-woolfe-sees-the-mets-norma-from-9-perspectives.html?pagewanted=all

    1. Ungeheuer says:

      Patricia Racette was dreadful and ghastly as Salome. So why would the NYT waste their time and ours by prominently covering a performance by a vocally ravaged and over-parted soprano? But Zach Woolfe did review it in passing, probably because the singer’s agent pushed for it. But it wasn’t merited and Woolfe basically damned her with faint praise. He was too kind, in my opinion.

      1. Der Fliegende Amerikaner says:

        Thanks Ungeheuer. I didn’t listen to Racette’s performance. However, the FT did review it and Martin Bernheimer has positive comments on her performance:

        https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwj25OaI4_HQAhVG9mMKHf0ID14QFggaMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcontent%2F5a18722e-bba3-11e6-8b45-b8b81dd5d080&usg=AFQjCNHkeYQ6mw8xKJDBdwMcLhyxEkm_3w&sig2=nlEpK86GxxqWlsdgWlYNjw

        Also, regarding your comments on why the NYT would cover a wretched performance, sometimes, poor reviews are the most entertaining to read!

        http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/dining/pete-wells-per-se-review.html

        1. Daniel F. says:

          Thanks for your links. Racette had a voice both too small and too unfocused in pitch to sing Salome as successfully as Martin Bernheimer claimed. Is it possible he listened to the favorably-engineered radio broadcast? He’s certainly right about the production, which was actually SO stupid that it had me forgetting Racette’s deficiencies, early and late. The Met Orchestra was not “racucous”, but Johannes Debus led a dull, remarkably unobservant account of the score.

          As for good negative reviews, restaurant critics (like Pete Wells) are better at this than most. The best theater “pan” reviews were written by Kenneth Tynan; the best negative film reviews by John Simon; the best negative classical music reviews by Michael Steinberg during his years at the Boston Globe. All of these were long ago, far from the advent of both “political correctness” and the lack of job security for newspaper critics of the arts.

  7. herrera says:

    But why do you want (need) more reviews of the New York Philharmonic? What good will it do?

    Here’s what always happens to me: I read a great review of the Met, or the NY Phil, or a concert at Carnegie Hall, I go see if I can get a ticket, turns out that there are no more performances available, or else, sold out months ago.

    Because here’s the paradox: If it’s a bad review, then you would’t want to attend anyway; but if it is a rave review, it’s because rare performances are often the most sought after and most notable.

    Either way, bad review or good review, you wind up not going to the concert.

    So, reviews only serve the musicians, ergo useless to have more of them for audience’s sake.

    QED. ; )

  8. Scott says:

    They also didn’t review the Concertgebouw or Joshua Bell last month.

  9. Nugg says:

    So, classical music has to compete for our attention and doesn’t just get it because it always has? Shocking.

  10. FRANCIS SCHWARTZ says:

    The TIMES spokesman is bathing us in Babbit Babble. What a sad state for the TIMES Arts section that used to matter.

    1. Daniel F. says:

      One of the saddest things in this tale is the sheer lack of literacy in the Times’s reply to the person who complained. The level is lower than one could have imagined. Then again critic Wolfe was once under the impression that Elliott Carter was a serial composer. Not earth-shattering but surprisingly incompetent. Still, the Times and other newspapers will be badly missed after President Trump, who really dislikes negative reviews of himself, sends in the Army to shut them down. Remember: you heard it here first.

  11. Jackyt says:

    What struck me most about Kristen Stanley’s vacuous response was the ending – “Thank you for being a valued subscriber.” Surely he is being sarcastic here?
    Then his title – “Customer Care Advocate”. What is one of those, when it’s at home? Oh dear!

    1. Sue says:

      A clerk who sits behind a computer screen.

    2. Daniel F. says:

      I believe Kristen is a woman’s name, and there was no deliberate sarcasm in the reference to “a valued subscriber”. There’s no thought involved at all. It’s the “boiler-plate” of a canned (or form) reply. As such, it’s insulting but Kristen and the person who actually wrote the form reply have no idea that it’s insulting. They’re trying to friendly. That’s what’s so ludicrous about all this: people asking for more arts coverage are neither illiterate nor stupid and can easily see through this charade.

      1. Dan P. says:

        I think it’s standard corporate practice for personnel whose job it is to interact with “disgruntled” customers to avoid engaging the disgruntled on any substantial point of disagreement. The effect, however, is of talking to one of the Stepford Wives (if one has ever seen that movie) and it only serves to make the disgruntled even more irritated, especially if one is dealing with them on the phone. Probably the person to address one’s issues with at the Times is its Ombudsman, someone who is further up on the food chain.

        As for the comments about Salome – ugh. I have tickets for the 28th. Given everything else I’ve seen in the past few seasons, my hopes weren’t high to begin with. However, this production sounds just as miserable as the others. If it’s “Dreadful and Ghastly” as Ungeheuer states, it sounds like it may not even worth it to take the elevator back up to Family Circle.

  12. Ravi Narasimhan says:

    “Customer Care Advocate” ?

    If she’s an advocate, I’d hate to see an adversary.

  13. Claude says:

    As a long time reader of the NYT, I regularly become furious at many aspects of its news and culture coverage. Unfortunately, I sometimes vent my anger by emailing the public editor or an individual reporter. I have found that there is an art to eliciting a true response rather than a canned response. I have actually been called by the assistant to the public editor and have had several email exchanges with Maureen Dowd. You need to be insulting but not obscene and figure out some angle to get under the writer’s skin. I strongly endorse targeting the NYT’s “critics” for abuse. They should be ashamed of their collaboration. Besides they aren’t really critics. They are just covering their beats. They could get moved to foreign affairs.

  14. Dana says:

    Why do some people feel such a strong need to take on “troll” behavior and insult others for expressing an opinion? One person says what s/he thinks of the NYTimes, and another replies with a personal insult to that person. Sad.
    Anyway–in the not-too-distant future, newspapers will gather information on the kind of articles you click on and are interested in, then deliver to your inbox articles tailored to your preferences–you’ll have your own personalized news and even separate versions of articles slanted to agree with your political/musical/literature/business tastes. Won’t that be great? Then we’ll never have to open our minds to other opinions (most of us aren’t open now); we’ll become totally satisfied with “our” news and reviews and become even more self-centered and isolated from each other. There will be nothing and no-one to criticize because we’ll agree with everything we read!


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