Now We Lay To Rest
On July 20th, 2006 Bill Marx sent his last transmission on the WBUR Arts pages. The announcement of his departure came at a time when the Arts covergage on WBUR's Arts Pages was reaching a positive critical mass, and actually leaping out front with podcasts and in-depth interviews about everything from the My Name Is Rachel Corrie debate to the comparison of Philadelphia and Boston with regards to their efforts to nurture their arts and culture.
Almost overnight, the Arts pages, including the WBUR Arts blog Attitude, comparatively collapsed into disuse and became, shamefully, almost a ghost site. Now and then we have a review pop up, but instead of theatrical coverage, we have virtual tumbleweeds.
Then, at the end of last year, rumblings of the Boston Herald cutting its arts staff were circulating. After a few reviews from long-time Boston Herald theatre reviewer Terry Byrne appeared, we thought that the fears were unfounded. However, it was soon apparent that Terry was gone, and the Herald Arts pages began to look like the WBUR Arts pages.
There is also the case of the Boston Phoenix. The Alt-weekly continues its regular theatre coverage, but Carolyn Clay, the lead reviewer, seems forced to combine reviews of two to three productions into one column. Sometimes she deftly pulls this off, but other times her attempts are a little strained. The Phoenix has a stable of stringers, (Sally Cragin and Liza Weisstuch,) but they seem to be appearing less frequently.
The departure of Ed Siegel from the Boston Globe did not seem to stop theatre coverage at our major paper. (And Geoff Edgers, Globe Editor and keeper of the blog The Exhibitionist did some dogged reporting on the Woodruff departure at the American Repertory Theatre.) The coverage of smaller theatre companies has seen a slight decline though.
Of course, there is the overall decline in print media and newspapers, but does that mean that the paper's online presence has to decrease as well?
If WBUR didn't see the importance in Arts and Cultural coverage, how will the Globe and Herald eventually shake out?