Saturday, July 24, 2010

Critics Versus Advertising Dollars?

The Baltimore Sun's classical music critic, Tim Smith comments on the ongoing trial of Cleveland music critic Don Rosenberg versus his employer The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Rosenberg was allegedly removed from his beat because the Cleveland Orchestra complained that he was too rough on them - their music director, in particular.

Here is some of Smith's take:

For the last few decades, newspapers all over the country have been devaluing criticism. calling for more feature stories, trend pieces, news briefs, etc., and less actual critical thinking. Even before the Internet and the blogosphere it spawned, where anyone can take on the appearance of a critic, the place of the independent reviewer with actual credentials of education, experience and a clearly defined artistic value system has been on shaky ground in many papers.

I think some of this may have factored into what happened in Cleveland. If editors get the idea that critics are just glorified consumer reporters – you can trust this concert; don’t waste your money on that one – then what difference does it matter what "product" they cover? And if a “manufacturer” (especially one who buys ads in the paper) doesn’t like what the critic is saying, heck, just move him off the beat.

Likewise, music organizations have increasingly picked up on this notion that a critic is primarily a marketing tool, not a judge of artistic quality. My colleagues and I have heard all too often the line: “We need help selling tickets. Can’t you do a story?”

Hat Tip Wendy Rosenfield

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