Cutback in Arts Coverage at the NY Times

Here’s a letter to the New York Times I wrote concerning the awful cutbacks in arts coverage in the Weekend Arts section:

To the editor:

I am appalled by the horrific cuts in coverage of the arts instituted by the Times. What I want as a subscriber is broad coverage of a wide range of arts events, including classical music and jazz, not a section that is overwhelmingly dominated by movies. I don’t care if a concert does not have additional performances, I want to read about it because I rely on the paper not as a guide to date night, but for thoughtful contributions to a critical conversation about the performing arts. By failing to cover a broad range of performances – including more than just the major institutions like the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic (although you seem to not even be covering them now) – you deny your readers a comprehensive picture of the performing arts in New York in all its variety and vitality. You are not doing your readers any favors by cutting back the Listings to “the most timely and important performances”. Are readers of the New York Times really so naive as to need “Critic’s Picks” labels and an easily digestible “Listings” section that offers only a small fraction of New York’s huge array of “timely and important performances”?

The New York Times is doing its readers and the performing arts a tremendous disservice with these cutbacks, and I hope you will reconsider your plans.

If you feel similarly, please write to .

[UPDATE: The Saturday Times now has a page devoted to classical music reviews. I wonder if this bundling scheme lets classical music reviews have more of an impact, rather than having them dispersed here and there throughout the week – or if it means classical is being yet again ghettoized rather than being integrated into regular life? It remains to be seen if classical reviews will only be printed on Saturdays…]

[UPDATE #2: I received a quick and gracious reply from the Times, reprinted here with permission.]

Thank you for the note. Please know that we take your comments seriously.

Did you have a chance to see the Arts section today? We had a cover story and full page of classical music coverage inside. We’ll be dedicating a page like that to classical music every Saturday going forward. And of course we’ll continue to run important reviews and news over the course of the week. We believe this will provide serious concertgoers a reliable destination while also giving more casual readers and easier point of entry into this part of our report.
My best,
Blake Wilson
Senior Editor, Culture

And here is my reply:

Thank you for your speedy and gracious reply. Yes, I was relieved to see the classical music reviews and Critic’s Notebook piece in the Saturday paper. I’m not certain if aggregating events by field on a particular day gives that field more impact (by occupying more page real estate, albeit only once a week) or less impact because events are not integrated into the daily conversation of the paper.

I remain concerned that fewer events are receiving coverage, either in the form of a review or a listing of events, and that what does get covered will inevitably be the big organizations – the Met, the Philharmonic – rather than a fuller view of New York’s musical life in all its splendid variety. Is there a possibility of a truly comprehensive listing of events being posted online? The direction of the print edition seems to be tilting toward the “casual reader” as you put it, rather than the “serious concertgoer”. Perhaps online material can help strike a healthier balance.

I also wonder what will be happening with coverage of jazz.

Here’s hoping the Times finds ways to offer broad and deep coverage of music, welcoming to the casual reader, but comprehensive in its vision of the city’s musical life.

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