Bleak day for arts media as Bloomberg shuts down Muse

Bleak day for arts media as Bloomberg shuts down Muse


norman lebrecht

November 19, 2013

Arts writers and readers are reeling today at the news that Bloomberg is scrapping Muse, the daily board of eight high-class arts stories and commentaries.

Its founder and editor, Manuela Hoelterhoff (pictured with Bloomberg editor in chief Matt Winkler), will stay on the network as chief cultural correspondent, and boy can she write. There will also be an arts blog on the Luxury channel. But Muse is dead. Another arts outlet bites the dust. And other media owners will take this as a signal to shrink their arts coverage still further.



UPDATE: Here’s the internal memo from Matt Winkler.

When we announced the management reorganization a little more than a month ago, we said we wanted to be ideally positioned for growth, foster deeper collaboration, and develop our news products. Since then, we evaluated everything we’re doing to determine what’s working and what isn’t, with the single aim to ensure all we do has maximum impact. One lesson we learned was that we must have the courage to say no to certain areas of coverage in order to have enough firepower in areas we want to own.

It’s against this backdrop that we had to make some difficult decisions today. We were able to reassign a number of people to new positions, and we are grateful for the contributions of those who no longer can be part of our organization. We are convinced that the changes will help us take Bloomberg News to another level of influence.

We decided to scale back arts coverage and no longer use the Muse brand, and we’ll align our leisure reporting with Pursuits and the luxury channel on the Web. Executive Editor Manuela Hoelterhoff, who initiated luxury coverage at Bloomberg, will now oversee new book projects while continuing the cultural coverage for which she received a Pulitzer Prize and Guggenheim fellowship. We will create an editing hub for the Projects team in Washington and no longer have editors dispersed around the world, to further empower the writers; we decided to focus our AV team on LIVE <GO>, which terminal customers depend on, and stop the parallel editing of video that the multimedia team already does. We also decided to concentrate our sports coverage on the nexus with business and no longer do match reports. In beat reporting, we identified some savings thanks to closer collaboration among the newly united teams.


  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    This is so very sad to read. It is what is happening today- culture is unnecessary. It is also troubling that they intend to put the arts blog on the “LUXURY” channel, further supporting the idea that the arts, are some how for the elites. They have to watch the kids from Paraguay who have nothing, but have music, and that makes them feel RICH. The arts should be available for every one. Growing up in Romania, I never knew my parents were not rich, because I had my music and I went regularly to the Opera and concerts. I did not need much else.

    IT is all so very sad

  • sdReader says:

    Yes, Manuela is terrific, but Muse I don’t think ever worked properly.

  • ed says:

    Just start taxing Bloomberg’s damned clients and there will be money for the arts and for a lot more. It’s time the hedge funds started paying their fair share.

  • Musiker says:

    Here’s a very interesting analysis which throws some light on the whys and wherefores of the decision. As usual, it seems to be about probability.

  • Mark says:

    Why would Bloomberg want to support the arts in any way, shape, or form? The only artwork in which he’s truly interested is to be found on paper money and coins. Now that he’s not looking to buy himself any additional years as mayor, he no longer needs to make any pretense of interest in the arts.

    • MWnyc says:

      For what it’s worth, Michael Bloomberg – who has given huge amounts of his own money to the arts over the years and has been very supportive of the arts as mayor (for instance, The Gates, which was first proposed decades ago, would not have happened without him) – no longer runs Bloomberg News. I believe he gave up control of the company when he became mayor 12 years ago.

      • Mark says:

        Does that “huge” amount of money compare to the over $100 million he spent of his own money to buy himself his their term in office? (not to mention the many millions he spent to buy the first two terms) How much, undeclared, of his money did he spend to buy the support of the various arts organizations to buy their influence in his elections? When was the last time he actually attended a concert? As to Bloomberg News, if you think he REALLY gave up his influence there, well, as we say around here, I have a bridge to sell you.

        • MWnyc says:

          Buy himself his terms in office?

          Do you really think that so many of us New Yorkers are so suggestible that we’ve been utterly unable to make up our own minds about Michael Bloomberg for three elections in a row?

          As we say in New York, oh please …

          Bloomberg’s millions in campaign spending may have bought him his first election victory (against, it should be said, an opponent with a history of losing big elections); after that, we knew what we were getting when we voted for him.

          There are loads of things on which one can disagree with Mike Bloomberg, and we New Yorkers are not at all shy about doing so. But under his administration, the city government has been running better than in any other period in my lifetime, and I know I’m far from the only person who thinks so.

          (Incidentally, as for your question, “How much, undeclared, of his money did he spend to buy the support of the various arts organizations to buy their influence in his elections?”, you seem to overestimate the influence arts organizations themselves can exercise in our elections. If they were caught engaging in any political activity on behalf of or against a particular candidate, they would lose their tax-exempt status.)

          But we’ve veered off-topic, Mark.

          You began this sub-thread by writing, “Why would Bloomberg want to support the arts in any way, shape, or form? The only artwork in which he’s truly interested is to be found on paper money and coins.” Whatever else one might dislike the man for, that is demonstrably untrue, as shown by both years of personal donations on his part and his support as Mayor for projects like The Gates, Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls in the East River, and the simulcasting of the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night of the season in Times Square.

          • Mark says:

            As a lifelong New Yorker, I can certainly speak for lots and lots of New Yorkers. And yes, unfortunately far too many New Yorkers apparently were entirely too suggestible. Of course, it did not help that everyone of Bloomberg’s failures, while covered for a day or so in the media, almost immediately were dropped thereafter. Bloomberg has made sure that that the total failure of his NYC public schools chancellors have nonetheless received positive press. Cathy Black was, of course, the most prominent, totally inexperienced chancellor he appointed, but neither of the other two (Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott) would know a good lesson from a bad one. Still, they were good foot soldiers in Bloomberg’s plan to destroy and privatize the public school system.

            As to “running better than in any other period,” perhaps you have forgotten about his City Time project. That’s the one that ballooned from ~$67 million to well over $700 million and still didn’t work. Bloomberg had to be dragged kicking and screaming into court to sue the contractors involved with the project. What the $2 billion overhaul of the 911 system which has been plagued with problems? Or the 11 hospitals recently closed in NYC? These are just some of Bloomberg’s major failures during his 12 years in office.

            As for his support of the arts, these projects are really just chump change for Bloomberg. As the years go on, more and more of his failures will continue to come out. Don’t drink the Bloomberg Kool-aid.

          • MWnyc says:

            And yes, unfortunately far too many New Yorkers apparently were entirely too suggestible.

            Mark, I don’t disagree with everything you’re saying. But dude, just because some people don’t agree with you doesn’t necessarily mean they’re suggestible.

            Although I’ve got to acknowledge that considering people who don’t think the way you/I/whoever does to be gullible fools is a very New York failing – and it’s certainly a failing I’ve had to combat for all my life.

  • Thank you “Musiker” for the link to the very useful Reuters analysis by Felix Salmon. It looks as if your actual comment was bitten by “Auto-Correct,” though, and that what you typed must have been, “As usual, it seems to be about *profitability.* Probably. 😉

  • And I just list the close quote after *profitability.*

  • Anonymous says:

    Manuela Hoelterhoff can write? The same Manula Hoelterhoff who wrote this drivel?

    Surely you are joking, Norman.

    • MWnyc says:

      I’m not a fan, either, I have to say.

      I liked a good bit of the stuff she wrote for The Wall Street Journal back in the ’80s, but that was a while ago.

      Her writing is lively, I’ll grant you that.