Unfit to print: NY Times sacks suburban arts reporters

From Deadline.com:

The New York Times this week quietly ended its coverage of restaurants, art galleries, theaters and other commercial and nonprofit businesses in the tri-state region, laying off dozens of longtime contributors and prompting protests from many of the institutions that will be affected. They foresee an impact not only on patronage but, in the case of the nonprofits, on their ability to raise funds to survive.

Theatres and promoters are calling it a disaster. And here’s how the writers were fired by email: “Dean Baquet and I have decided that the resources and energy currently devoted to these local pages could be better directed elsewhere. Therefore, we will publish our final reviews and features in the New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island and Connecticut editions on August 28. The Metropolitan section as it appears in New York City will still be published and circulated throughout the region, but it will no longer include zoned content…Sorry about this, folks. I want to thank you for all you’ve done, all the fine writing you’ve given our readers. I wish you all the best.”

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More here.

 

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  • Very disappointing. While 20 million people work in Manhattan every day, the majority commute in and live in the communities surrounding the city. They don’t schlep into Manhattan every time they want to go to dinner or to a show (just ask Peter Gelb………..) and there is so much local theater and excellent entertainment of all kinds to be found in the surrounding Tri-State area (population approximately that of England – 50 million). I guess the NYT has figured that people use Google and Yelp to figure all this out…………..

  • No surprise here. The NYT, like virtually all American newspapers, has been bleeding red ink for a long time and at some point it has to stop. So cuts come to culture and arts, which is read by far fewer people than the sports section. The NYT is a business, it owes the cultural institutions and restaurants, etc, nothing. Yes, it’s going to hurt them. Same story everywhere in the US. The fraction of adults who read daily papers is quite low; the millenials almost zero. And let’s be honest: which is more “impressive”, the Westchester Philharmonic or the New York Philharmonic? or the impressive offerings at Carnegie Hall? The Westchester Phil is a fine orchestra, but there is no way it has the aura of the NYPhil.

    • Actually, the New York Times‘s Sunday Arts and Leisure section is said to be the single most profitable newspaper section in the U.S.

      But Arts and Leisure rarely prints reviews as such.

  • It’s not directly relevant to the previous posters’ statement, clearly true, that there is much significant local and regional arts activity in Greater New York that merits attention, but the total population of New York’s ‘combined statistical area’, as defined by the U. S. government, and which includes a geographical radius of about 100 miles from New York City, excluding Philadelphia and its suburbs, is twenty three million. There are 4 million jobs in the City of New York, of which, obviously, all are not in Manhattan. The statistics recited above sound more like those for ‘Megapolis USA’, or the entire northeast corridor from Boston to Washington, DC.

  • Regional editions will have to pick up the slack. Co-op their own editions with local printing. Be creative and find solutions.

  • This is just another step toward the end of newspapers as we have known them – as well as their coverage of the arts. Before the big mid-sixties’ newspaper strike NYC had 12 daily papers. Afterwards, we had three, the same three we have now. And, of those three, one tabloid has lost money ever since Rupert Murdoch bought it and all have shrunk the size of its pages.

    If anyone remembers the NY Times from the 1960s and 70s, the arts section was always bursting with reviews (every debut was reviewed the next day) and the Sunday edition had numerous features on classical music. Every Sunday, the big Page 1 Arts section ran a big classical music feature. That happens rarely at the Times now. Forget about debuts or almost all recitals today.

    But, they do this for sound business reasons. Their readers don’t really care about classical music and aren’t interested in reading about it. This is not new either. Back in the 70s one critic of the big NY suburban (Long Island) paper told me that when surveyed, their readers listed classical music as the topic they were least interested in. They since let their critic go. Now, only the Times still covers classical music at all. The Daily News and NY Post abandoned THAT ship a long time ago.

  • To be honest, I have always been a bit puzzled that the Times publishes reviews of restaurants in the outer suburbs of New York. When I was in high school, I was in a community theater production that got a feature (!) in the Times, and I was quoted at some length. (You should all be thankful that your first page of google results doesn’t include your teenaged musings on what makes a conductor effective.) Of course every nonprofit organization or new restaurant would kill for a surprise good review in the Times. It’s disappointing, I guess, that they won’t be doing this anymore, but it’s not exactly a disaster.

  • I wonder how many major US newspapers have been like the Times, which has combined national, regional, and local coverage. This made it of interest to all its readership. As for restaurant reviews, it seems to me (and I may be wrong) that food coverage only expanded over the past 2 decades as more and more people became “foodies.” This was around the same period that classical music started to cut back. I’m not alone in expecting that the Internet will do to newspapers what television did to radio. But I don’t think saying “I read it on the Internet” will ever have the same ring of authority as “I read it in the NY Times.”

  • While most reviews appeared in weekday and Saturday papers, I’m pretty sure the Sunday section had major reviews, that is, when the Times actually bothered to review many concerts. When they decided to stop covering debut recitals in the ’80s, they killed off the careers of most aspiring performers who, without quotes from the Times (incompetent) critics, could not get recognition or respect and bookings. Now, only winners of competitions can get any attention, which has basically destroyed the health of classical music. This is just one more reason why the NY Times NO LONGER MATTERS! Damn the Times, and damn us, for not starting our own publications. We have NO national classical music magazine. That is unacceptable.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Baron. Our society has no interest in and ascribes no value to the music that means most to us here and as you well know, the current path that the Times started a long time ago. I’ve been told that in the 60s the NYT fired critics who were also composers – that is, professionals in the field, rather than simply record collectors who could write. The thought was that they would be biased (although biased as opposed to whom I don’t know).

      The current crop of writers are extremely sloppy, to say the least. One NYT critic reviewed a concert I gave at a major venue and the only reference he actually made to me was as David P, not Dan P. You’d think he would have at least checked the program before writing. Since Time Out New York stopped doing classical concert listings and the Village Voice is no longer required reading for a certain segment of the city, it’s impossible to know what’s going on. And with NY classical music radio having been reduced from three full time stations to one that provides mostly classical Muzak for dentist offices much of the time, it’s impossible for musicians to get any exposure and keep our art alive. Even PBS has long since abandoned us.

  • Many, many mixed feelings about this. Of course, there was an inevitable in that this coverage is small potatoes to everything else. I live on Long Island, and I love the back of my Sunday Metropolitan section, since it has NYC news and LI news. It’s a small amount of coverage, so I can understand the sacking of this area since it won’t result in much for them. But, the local impact is huge. Restaurants, local non-profit arts centers, museums, etc. – they all have ambition to be covered by this regional section. And that has gone away. You’d think they’d keep this coverage, even if online only. What a shame.

    There are many other local (smaller) outlets, and they have impact, too. But, not as much as the Times.

  • Um, the big question is “who should pay for (local) arts coverage”? Perhaps, if it is important to Long Island etc, then local tax-payers or local businesses can subsidize a page-or-two in the New York Times.

    • I guess the question is this: do enough suburban residents read these pages to make it attractive for local businesses to advertise there. I’d guess that that there isn’t. Back in the day – it was a standard practice of suburbanites of a certain social class to read through the Sunday Times. Maybe this is not the case anymore. Fewer people reading the paper, fewer people interested in the arts coverage. If enough people aren’t willing to pay for these things, then these things disappear.

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