Dallas gets a sponsored music critic

Dallas gets a sponsored music critic


norman lebrecht

December 18, 2019

The Dallas News has hired a full-time classical music critic, with a salary supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism. The new guy, Tim Diovanni, wll work alongside veteran critic Scott Cantrell on a one-year contract.

Dallas, like many US newspapers, has made deep cuts in its cultural coverage.

Steve Rubin’s institute has enabled the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Houston Chronicle and the Minneapolis Star Tribune to maintain full cover of the classical scene in cities with important orchestras that might otherwise die for lack of media oxygen.

Read on here.


  • This is odd.

    Scott Cantrell *was* the Dallas Morning News’ staff classical critic but has just been a freelance “special contributor” for years now… “supported in part by a grant from the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation,” according to the DMN.

    I’m glad there will be more classical coverage but this is awkward for journalism. The paper now has two reporters whose “beat” is getting coverage because someone who is not the paper is paying them to do it.

    What happens when this practice expands to other topics where coverage has the potential to sway voter opinion?

    The paper says, “The News makes all editorial decisions,” but how much fact-checking will they be doing when they didn’t have the money to hire reporters in the first place?

    • Nils Angmar says:

      -„What happens when this practice expands to other topics where coverage has the potential to sway voter opinion?“

      They’d probably find ardent firebrands to peddle rabid opinions and delusional conjecture as proven facts and true stories, while masquerading as objective news broadcasters and benevolent social media companies…oh, wait…….

    • Minnesota Private Citizen says:

      Not odd at all. There are several local and regional publications in the U.S. with similar arrangements. Highly professional coverage of various topics may be purchased from specialized organizations relating to medical or scientific or other topics. Sometimes a fund is created for readers to pay for a “sponsored” position. In Minneapolis, a respected daily online publication, MinnPost, has a reader-supported position for regular general arts coverage provided by Pamela Espeland, who is outstanding. U.S. Newspapers have used outside suppliers of various kinds, including freelancers, for 200+ years. They work under the editorial direction of the newspaper editors.

      • Luigi Nonono says:

        Outside funding sources are of legitimately great concern, particularly as nonprofits are rarely truly transparent. MinnPost is a minor rag of no consequence whatsoever. The StarTribune is prosperous enough not to take advantage of this funding. Now, the Pioneer Press, on the other hand, should be funded.

  • IntBaritone says:

    This is great news. Scott Cantrell is one of the worst out there.

  • Congratulations to Tim. He wrote program notes for Long Island’s North Shore Symphony Orchestra in the previous two seasons. He’s a lovely guy, very easy to work with, and his writing is engaging and well-informed.

  • Vance Koven says:

    The Boston Globe’s second staff critic was also hired with funds from a foundation, though I don’t know if it was the Rubin. They also have three or four stringers, who these days seem to do more articles and interviews than concert reviews. All the real action has moved from the print press to online journals such as the one I write for, the Boston Musical Intelligencer.

    • Luigi Nonono says:

      Hard-to-find, insignificant online “publications” hardly count for anything. I only found out the Musical Intelligencer existed only by accident. The New York Concert Review, if that’s the name, actually charges the performers for the privilege of being reviewed! Print is all that matters.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        “Print is all that matters”

        Not really true, there are some arts criticism web sites who are well regarded. The problem, as you would surely agree, is how to distinguish between hobbyists (usually well-intentioned but often ignorant and sometimes extremely partial) and genuinely well grounded criticism. At least with newspapers, I know the criticism is professional.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    I wonder what Tim Diovanni’s review of Don Giovanni will be.

  • sam says:

    “otherwise die for lack of media oxygen”

    That’s a very interesting view on the role of classical music criticism: as a form of free advertising, giving truth to Oscar Wilde’s dictum “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”

    Whereas on Broadway, a bad review shuts down the show, but further up on Broadway at Lincoln Center, a bad review reminds people that the Met is once again staging their favorite Zefferelli production.

    Idea: Newspapers should charge the symphony and opera house for every review they publish. Each click earns $1. (Just like this site, ha ha, kidding)

  • AMC says:

    Pittsburgh lucked out with the reviewer they received under this arrangement. Jeremy Reynolds writes good music reviews and columns of interest to classical lmusic lovers. Hope it works as well in Dallas.

  • Larry W says:

    The Rubin Institute is wise to support classical music criticism in Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and Houston, three cities with exceptionally fine orchestras.

    One classical review blog has critics in Dallas and Houston. Both are good, but seem more informative when reviewing opera and choral works. That site depends on advertising, the purchase of which has provided a means for summer festival student groups to be reviewed. The Houston Symphony stopped ads when the editor referred to them as a regional orchestra. Not a well informed comment.