In a critical condition (3)

In a critical condition (3)


norman lebrecht

July 19, 2008

A friend in Charlotte, North Carolina, reports that their newspaper, the Observer, has shed two critics, music and movies. With the Los Angeles Times heaving bodies overboard and the Wall Street Journal on the verge of a cull, it looks like open season on the endangered critical species across the US print media.

And while I have no idea what Robert Thomson has in mind for Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ, his editorship at the Times in London showed no understanding or personal sympathy for arts. If an editor doesn;t care about arts, the cost-cutters see a green light.

A surviving Charlotte staffer, Lawrence Toppman, says his paper will rely on ‘wire-service reviews for movies’, which is better than nothing – but not much. If a city paper cannot address events within its boundaries from a local angle, why should local people bother to read it?

What earthly point is there is agreeing or disagreeing with the artistic sensibility of an agency desk jockey who lives in another state, and maybe in another country? Newspapers that lose their resident critical faculty are effectively signing their own death certificate.

When the prolific Alan Brien died last month at the age of 83, it was reported that he was the first writer to be hired at the creation of the Sunday Telegraph, the editor taking the judicious view that once he had a theatre critic in place all else would sort itself out. And so it did.

Critics give a newspaper character. Sack ’em and you might as well publish press releases.