Results tagged “newspapers” from ARTicles

As journalistic endeavors go, The Arts Desk is something of a conductorless orchestra. Based in London and staffed by about three dozen writers and photographers, many of them former Daily Telegraph contributors, the online publication is structured as a collective, sans editors. In the absence of hierarchy, the group put Jasper Rees forward to discuss the site. This is an edited version of our interview, which was conducted via instant message. Where messages crossed, text has been rearranged for clarity.

Jasper Rees crop.jpg

The Arts Desk, which calls itself "Britain's first professionally produced arts critical website," launched last September: 09/09/09. Why and how did it come about?

In December 2008 a number of freelance arts writers who work regularly for the arts pages of the Daily Telegraph in the UK received the news simultaneously, in the very same email -- we were all cc'ed -- that in 2009 the paper was halving its arts budget and that much of the work would be done by staffers and in-house writers. We didn't need to read between the lines to work out that our work was going to shrink, and with it our pay. Without wishing to blow our own trumpets, we felt that any such move would necessarily entail a drop in quality of the arts coverage on the paper.

Very British, that modesty.

You might say that, I couldn't possibly comment -- to quote a political satire about cynical Westminster life that was on TV a while

March 31, 2010 12:00 AM |
ComeFlyAway1.jpgOnce more there is a conversation in the ArtsBeat blog between critics of different disciplines, in this case Charles Isherwood and Alastair Macaulay, on the subject of the Broadway dance musical "Come Fly Away," choreographed by Twyla Tharp to music of Frank Sinatra. I have been lapping it up.

Isherwood has called "Come Fly Away" a "major new work" of theater, and Macaulay has decried its dance as "intimacy perverted into exhibitionism." I am interested in the discussion that is developing over the nature of Tharp's work, for what it is and what it isn't, breakthrough or compromise, as judged from the perspective of these critics who write about related but different genres. Here's the link to the conversation, best read from the bottom up.

For the record, I saw "Come Fly Away" in one of its last previews. I found it exhilarating, and I would have been happy to tell you why over a bottle of wine after the show. But because I was a 

March 30, 2010 10:52 AM |

In Dallas, KERA public media's nearly two-year-old Art&Seek initiative combines radio, television and online cultural coverage, much of it by former print journalists -- among them reporter/producer Jerome Weeks, a 1999-2000 NAJP fellow. Anne Bothwell, the director of Art&Seek, discussed the project in an e-mail interview.


The team you lead at Art&Seek includes journalists who, like you, are former arts staffers from The Dallas Morning News, which drastically cut its newsroom -- and, consequently, its arts coverage -- in 2006. What did, or does, the absence of strong cultural coverage in the local daily paper mean for Dallas, a city of more than a million people? When Art&Seek was launched in 2008, was that an effort to fill the void?

Like so many other newspapers, the Morning News covered local arts as an almost exclusive franchise. But like so many other papers, the cutbacks in staff affected that franchise. Similar cutbacks at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram have led both papers to 'share' coverage, underscoring their dwindling, now-sometimes solitary voice in the community. As coverage waned, artists, presenting and performing organizations and other cultural institutions found it harder to get the word out about their work. Art&Seek was launched in part to fill that need.

Exposure to information about the arts makes it more likely you'll be inspired to pick up a paintbrush or join a dance class. And the theater, dance, music and visual arts we support as a community say a lot about who we are. At their best, cultural coverage and criticism provide a framework to reflect on and talk to each other about what this means. A city without robust cultural coverage is also full of folks missing many opportunities to engage with the arts -- and with each other.

March 24, 2010 12:00 AM |

When a publication lays off a batch of key employees, the editor has to say something in an attempt to soothe the staffers who remain. Still, as reassurances go, "Today's changes won't be noticed by readers" is unlikely to pass muster. That's what editor Tim Gray told the survivors at troubled Variety yesterday after he laid off chief film critic Todd McCarthy, chief theater critic David Rooney, film critic Derek Elley and "features editor/indie film reporter Sharon Swart, along with several copy and design desk employees," according to TheWrap.

Even if the three critics take Gray up on his offer to let them continue as freelancers, there's no question that readers will notice the difference. Using what has become boilerplate language for media industry budget cutters, Gray told survivors in a memo, "Our goal is the same: To maintain, or improve, our quality coverage." A laudable ambition, but firing people is a thoroughly unrealistic way of attempting to reach it, as editors and publishers well know. What's remarkable is that, as long as they're dealing in fantasy, they don't come up with better talking points.

The issue is not solely one of skilled, experienced critics being cut loose -- though McCarthy, a 31-year veteran of Variety, speaks eloquently to that in an interview with Sharon Waxman. There's also the matter of what happens behind the scenes. Newspapers never have had fact-checkers as such, but good editors and copy editors serve that function, and they've saved many a writer's butt from inaccuracies, inadvertently libelous statements, and general sloppiness. Of course, it helps immensely when those editors know the writers, and therefore know what to look out for. With fewer editors, and freelancers rather than staff writers, the holes in the safety net get larger, and the publication suffers. That can get expensive. For a current case study from a related industry, see publishing's "The Last Train From Hiroshima" debacle.

March 9, 2010 9:44 AM |

Today's Louisville Courier-Journal front page has been created by Turkish conceptual artist Serkan Özkaya.

It's a partnership between the newspaper and a public art organization called artwithoutwalls.

The newspaper explains:

Why does he do this? Why did we let him?

Özkaya said his art is intended to make people "look at your experience in a new way."

Courier-Journal publisher Arnold Garson said the project intrigued him because it can generate discussion, and because it points out how art is a valuable part of everyday life.

"It is about starting the thought process, which is what art is about," Garson said. "It makes you stop and think.

"We are in the business of communication. This is just another way of doing that," he added. "I hope it's exciting, surprising to our readers."

The Kentucky paper isn't the first to turn an artist loose on its news product. For several years The Guardian newspaper has turned over the front pages of its culture sections to visiting artists a week at a time and asked them to create art to illustrate that week's stories.

But what if they created something that was, well, controversial (artists being artists, and all)? Like this? Can you imagine what readers would say?
April 10, 2009 7:45 AM |

Apologies for my lengthy absence, though I have been reading you all.

In case anyone imagined that managers in our business are any different from those in finance or law enforcement, check out today's layoff memo from the editor-in-chief of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Romenesko, otherwise known as Our Dedicated Obit Site).

So warm, heart-felt.

My favorite phrase goes immediately into the Doublespeak Dictionary: "involuntary separation offer."

I've always imagined the grim reaper asking me if I'd care to join him.

March 25, 2009 9:49 AM |
Those of us who write for a living tend to think of the current crisis in journalism in terms of writers. There is, of course, a lot more to the story, as Jerry Condit's email reminds. Jerry until recently was employed by MediaNews' L.A. Daily News.

"I've been meaning to get back to you. I was 're-assigned' right out the door a month ago. With all of the layoffs and 200 more to come, I knew it was only a matter of time before they got around to me. Many have gone before me. The Daily News is going to outsource its printing operations to a private printing company in Gardena so everybody that's been connected with the printing end of things in Valencia is getting the boot, about 200 of them. I know that there has been more re-organizing in my classified department, which was Automotive.

"I left in good standing, was given some OK severance with an eligibility for rehire. I'd been with the paper for nine years but, quite frankly, because of the work I did (Sales Coordinator) I don't miss the job itself, just the paycheck, benefits, and some of my colleagues. Not sure what direction I'm heading. Unemployment insurance is good for 26 weeks but I know the stimulus package has a provision for a twenty week extension, which a few million of us are probably going to need. I have nothing to fall back on and I'm trying to figure things out. I'm studying for the CBEST exam which I failed miserably on ten years ago but back then I didn't prepare either.  I used to substitute teach in a private school years ago. I'm 59 years old and that is making the job hunt even more difficult.

"So, that's where I am, just another American statistic in these troubled times. Things ain't going to get any better soon and all papers in the country are hanging by a thread. The LA Times is in miserable shape too ... I'm sure the Mercury News isn't doing well, either. Be glad you had your teaching to fall back on."

March 10, 2009 7:58 PM |
Heard 'round the water cooler: An intern at the L.A. Times says the paper is looking to hire budget Woodsteins straight from J-school. This, after they offered -- and accepted -- buyouts from several of their most seasoned employees. Anyone care to advance?

Contact Lovell at
March 21, 2008 7:41 PM |

Roger Catlin figured his job might be safe after his newspaper was sold by the "faceless" Tribune Co. But no:

New owner or not, it is part of the same sad march to downsizing we've been on for a decade. We've seen it before: with the best people (and those still marketable enough to get jobs elsewhere) taking off, leaving behind a lesser paper, empty desks, and the rest of us slugs to work even more to take up their duties.

I shouldn't take this personally.

Among TV writers with whom I'm associated, after all, this is not an uncommon thing. After decades of service and knowledge more vast than most network executives, they are laid off, outright fired or sent back to the tiny town bureaus where they began their careers - there are, after all, fires and car thefts to cover.

February 26, 2008 2:50 PM |

Is there anyone not talking about a crisis in the news industry? The New York Times is dumping 100 jobs. The troubled Tribune Company is offloading 400-500 people. And across the country there are reports of slumping advertising and impending layoffs. Now this report in AdAge:

U.S. media employment in December fell to a 15-year low (886,900), slammed by the slumping newspaper industry. But employment in advertising/marketing-services -- agencies and other firms that provide marketing and communications services to marketers -- broke a record in November (769,000). Marketing consulting powered that growth.

So things are pretty bad, and we're working in a dying industry. Nobody's reading newspapers anymore. 

And yet they are. And in record numbers. Look at this report in Editor & Publisher. The online audience is soaring, and here's the growth rate and numbers of unique readers for newspaper websites in January 2008 (with 000's at the end): -- 20,461 -- 45.1% -- 12,314 -- 19.4% -- 9,902 -- 14.6%
Wall Street Journal Online -- 6,962 -- 81.4%
LA Times -- 5,715 -- 4.7%

Not only are these huge audiences, but the growth rates continue to be spectacular. By far, more people are reading newspapers than ever before. As just one example, scroll down the list to No. 16, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has a unique web audience of 2.2 million. The P-I's print circulation, when it was considered healthy in the last century, was somewhere in the low 200,000's.

This is spectacular growth in audience. And yet, as the P-I's print circulation has declined to the mid-100,000s, its newsprint ad revenue has slumped, the paper is losing money, it's not replacing staff, and the owners are riding down its content, managing losses. As the paper's content has degraded, the perception of it in the community is one of declining influence and quality.

The problem, say newspaper industry execs, is that...

February 20, 2008 2:04 PM |

The Wall Street Journal is considering adding an expanded culture section:

If given the green light, the culture section would be another move toward Murdoch's stated goal of competing with The New York Times. As Journal managing editor Marcus Brauchli told The Times on Monday: "In the news department here, we believe there is no reason that people should have to go to another news source beyond The Journal to find news of consequence to them in any sphere -- politics, economics, even culture and the arts."

February 13, 2008 8:32 AM |

Longtime critic Terry Lawson took a buyout over the Holidays, and the newspaper isn't replacing him. Defamer has the news:

By our research, all of the other Top 20 newspapers in the United States have at least one major, well-known critic (yes, even the Arizona Republic). However, The Freep's move clearly signals that there's a changing tide in the amount of importance (and budget dollars) local newspapers allocate to coverage of the movie business. The Freep appears to be content to run wire reviews for new releases...

January 30, 2008 8:39 AM |


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