Another US daily hires subsidised music critic

Another US daily hires subsidised music critic


norman lebrecht

March 31, 2021

The Chicago Tribune has replaced its reitirng music critic Howard Reich with a new writer who will be partly paid by a charity.

Hannah Edgar is a trainee of the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism which, since 2012, has educated would-be critics and placed them in major newspapers, while also subsidising their position. There’s one in Dallas, another in Boston.

Without the Rubin Institute, none of these cities would have music coverage in their main newspapers.



  • Anon says:

    She looks like Ellen DeGeneres

  • V.Lind says:

    Well, there does not seem to be much divided loyalty here, rather an attempt to save music criticism in daily papers. But it is still a little unsettling — while not dangerous here, it would be troubling if some other, less benign, organisations, decided to run with the notion in more important spheres of news coverage.

  • SVM says:

    Is this arrangement really ethical? What happened to the idea that a critic is accountable to his/her readership and *only* his/her readership? Personally, I would argue that, in order for a critic to be *seen* to be impartial, his/her pay should not be sponsored by outside sources, and he/she should not be in the habit of accepting gifts/hospitality from the organisations about which he/she writes, except insofar as it may be unavoidable in order to get an exclusive (I realise this is an extreme view in relation to what actually happens, but I believe that it is inappropriate for concert promoters to distribute complimentary tickets to music critics for events that are open to the public — they, or their publishers, should pay their own way like the rest of us, although I suppose it is defensible for an *unpaid* critic, such as a ‘blogger writing on a website with no paid advertisements, to accept a complimentary ticket).

    I realise that the Rubin’s website claims that the newspaper retains editorial independence, but it is well known that the proclivities of major sponsors/advertisers *do* ultimately have an impact on the editorial line. Critics and editors are wont to self-censor if what they are inclined to write is perceived as likely to upset a sponsor/advertiser — can we be sure that a Rubin-sponsored critic would be prepared to write a scathing review of a performer, composer, or fellow critic who is an alumnus/alumna of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (the parent institution for the Rubin Institute)? I realise it is a long way from San Francisco to Chicago, but I imagine that there must be some professional musicians in Chicago who studied in San Francisco.

    More fundamentally, editorial independence is already compromised by the fact that the newspaper is, presumably, required to hire its Rubin-subsidised critic from a restricted pool of candidates (persons who have studied at the Rubin Institute), which means that the admissions officers of the Rubin Institute are accorded a gatekeeper function and the tutors at the Rubin Institute have potentially enormous power to influence the values and paradigms of music criticism in the newspapers that accept sponsorship (as Chomsky once said to a BBC journalist, “I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believed something different you wouldn’t have been sitting where you’re sitting.” — see ).

  • Concerned Opera Buff says:

    Another nail in the coffin of the once mighty Tribune, whose cheapskate owners think this will save them money. “They”, as the new critic wants to be called, is not qualified to be the Tribune’s critic, especially regarding opera. But this is all part and parcel of the Tribune’s surrender to the woke crowd. John Kass, a featured columnist who used to be on page 2, is now relegated to the back pages due to “political” interference. The Tribune also will not publish mugshots anymore of suspected criminals, lest the little darlings get upset. The editor is an idiot.

    • Rogerio says:

      Opera is not music.
      To be an Opera critic, you have to be versed in all facets of the Human Condition.
      There being no-one that wants to fit this profile in our modern times (because .. Twitter … Facebook .. you know) means that any-one can be an Opera critic.
      The Baseball critic will do just fine.

  • Curzon says:

    I suppose readers are no longer willing to pay enough for these papers to employ a critic on full rates, so it is a choice between getting nothing at all and getting something on the cheap.
    We all seem to want as much as possible for free, but also bemoan the poor quality of what we get.
    Maybe this partly-charity-sponsored arrangement is a workable compromise that also gives development opportunities to would-be critics.