Who Needs Reviews?
As newspapers continue to reposition themselves in a digital age, space in each issue has become more difficult to come by. Content continues to migrate to the web, as one would expect. Content also continues to disappear.
Like many, I read a lot of my news online. I receive a hard copy of the Columbus Dispatch over the weekend, but choose to add digital access to my subscription so I can have access throughout the day. As one who works with Arts organizations on a regular basis, attends concerts, and whose job includes interviewing musicians and playing their music on the air, I look forward to what a reviewer has to say about concert performances. Unfortunately, Arts reviews and reviewers are becoming more and more rare.
A case in point is the Boston Globe. Boston? Yes. Boston is an amazing cultural and historical center. Most know of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops. Boston Camerata may also come to mind for you. A visit to the Boston Arts Calendar website shows a vibrant cultural life, an incredible music scene, both Classical and otherwise, which makes the recent announcement by the Boston Globe both puzzling and painful.
"As the saying goes, another one bites the dust. As if this week couldn’t get any worse, on Tuesday June 14, we learned that pages from the arts section of the Boston Globe were being cut and that freelance critics will no longer write art, music, theater and dance reviews for the paper. Long-time Globe art critic Cate McQuaid posted this news to her Facebook page and mentioned that she “will be writing a short review of one gallery show each week.” The review will be published in Friday’s paper, instead of Wednesday as usual. McQuaid also wrote that she will still be writing feature stories about art."
So much of what passes for arts information comes out of press releases and Twitter, that tons of material can be added to either print editions or websites without needing dedicated writers. Unfortunately, that oftentimes makes it easier to find out what's going on in Timbuk-somewhere than in your own backyard.
For me, reading about performances, whether I was there or not, is an important connection to the community. I want to know what has happened and how performances are received. If there are multiple nights, do I need to make sure I go to an upcoming performance? Reviews reflect who we are as a city.
It's easy to continue cutting local content and cutting services to balance the checkbook or keep shareholders happy, but it seems that you become uninteresting at best, or potentially render yourself irrelevant.
I am grateful that the Columbus Dispatch continues to offer reviews of performances in our community.
Will the Boston Globe's decision have a lasting effect on the Arts scene in Boston? Only time will tell.