Sometimes I review this local-ish orchestra for its local newspaper. The orchestra had a concert recently, so I sent my usual note to the paper’s arts editor confirming that I should review the concert. And I got a reply that I didn’t expect.
“Since the concert will not be over until late Saturday night (it starts at 8, and runs 120 minutes), we probably won’t be able to get it into Sunday’s paper, which is where our readers would expect to read about a concert the previous night. To run it on Monday would be too long after the concert.”
Which was news to me, because for over a year I’d been doing exactly that.
So I asked where that had come from. And the editor said: “It’s just that publishing a review two days later, is no longer news. I realize we have done it in the past, but have found it to be not the best use of our resources and a disservice to readers.”
A disservice to readers?
Now the orchestra will only get reviewed twice a year, when it gives afternoon concerts. I think *that* is a disservice, both to the orchestra and to the community. Publishing reviews online first, and a day later in print, is no tragedy in my book. Publishing a review signals that it’s a worthwhile part of the arts coverage.
I heard that a friend and critic was no longer going to review the orchestra he’d been reviewing for ages. The paper (a different one from the one above) would no longer pay him to write.
Professional writers can’t be expected to write without pay. Their time, their thoughts, their words: these all have value.
I ran into that paper’s arts editor a few days later, and we talked a bit. “Did you hear?” She asked. The paper is cutting – are you ready for this? – all of its arts critics.
All of them.
She’s still in disbelief. “How am I supposed to put out an arts section?” she asked. In essence, she’s being asked to find free content or provide all the content herself. She refuses to pressure her critics to start writing for free. It’s not much of a choice.
Another friend – another critic facing the same things that we all are – sent me this article by Tim Kreider, in which Kreider writes:
“Of course the percentage of aspirants who’ve ever actually made a living in the arts has always been very low. In some ways the situation is the same as ever: the people who control delivery systems make millions, the people who actually make things are lucky to make rent… The teen anarchist in me rejoices at the irony of capitalism having finally devised an invention to render profit impossible, an economic Doomsday Machine.”
It’s the same in the arts, in journalism, and especially in arts journalism.
After the words “Doomsday Machine,” I don’t really have anything left to say.