Saturday, June 21, 2008

They Can't Fire ME!

...cause I do it for nothing. I don't even work for them.

On June 16th the KC Star announced it was laying off 120 people, including 20 something in the news room. I guess the stakeholders needed more money, as is usually the case when things like this happen.

One of the casualties was Paul Horsley, the Star's Classical Music and Dance critic. Now, as regular readers know, I review the concerts that I am able to attend. But since I am not rich, nor do I have the time to go to every single show in the city, I miss 80% of the concerts that are presented each year. Horsley went to most of them sometimes 2-3 a weekend. There are no plans, it seems, to fill that gap. I guess I am the one left standing.

I frequently disagreed with Horsley; it was almost predictable that when I loved something, he hated it, and when I had misgivings, he praised it. For example he praised Indra Thomas, the soprano for the Verdi Requiem last month. I thought she was a mess and could not sustain the notes and made no effort to blend with her colleagues. I frequently thought he had to dig too deep to pick on a performance, just as many critics do when they are too familiar with a piece. You know the scene, damning a performance because "the second bassoon did not finesse the arpeggio in measure 6 as X did so well...", or words to that effect. Sometimes, I had to admit, he was spot on in his praise or criticism. One thing for sure, it was clear he loved the arts and enjoyed his craft, writing informative and always entertaining reviews and interviews. Maybe he was too intellectual and too good for the Star?? Could be, seeing some of the drivel that is left.

Sadly, I think there is a bigger issue at large here. The Star and its parent McClatchy have made it clear that classical music is not worth anything. At a time when the local Symphony, Opera, Kansas City Chorale, Kansas City Ballet, Herriman Arts series, etc. are making national names of themselves, the Star refuses to seriously support community arts. What other city of this size has a new state of the art fine arts center under construction, has a Symphony that draws 30,000 to an outdoor concert, dance company touring the country and an opera company that makes headlines with innovative and well attended programming? Yet we have no one on the paper to cover this? KC will deserve the moniker "cowtown" more than ever.

KC is not alone, other cities and papers are cutting back on classical music reviewing and reporting. From New York to LA we are getting the message that arts are not newsworthy.. Paris Hilton is and David Cook, but not Beethoven, the Kansas City Chorale or the East hills Singers.

I guess it is up to me now and others like me who write for the fun and exercise rather than a paycheck. Maybe we are part of the problem... or just the wave of the future?


Anonymous said...

It's an unfortunate trend at newspapers everywhere. But they are really killing themselves. Readership is down, so they cut features and the result is going to be still less readers. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The Chicago Tribune has cut alot of features in the past year, and if they cut much more, I can't see the value in buying it. They reason that people will read it online. But the online experience just isn't the same.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy newspapers while they last, for when they go, they will evaporate from our world very quickly, and within 3-5 years at most.

First, they're redundant, and filled with yesterday's news. Second, aficionados like yourself are far more fun to read, and you are more critically honest — no editors or advertisers to please, just the truth. Third, papers have become like radio stations and fully corporatized and homogenized; read one and you've read them all. Fourth, newspapers haven't made a profit in over 20 years, and no one sees a future in the business. Paper and pulp costs have skyrocketed, and who the hell wants to pay a dollar for a flimsy paper that resembles my little Rolla hometown fish wrapper? Finally, blogs are better, more immediate, and can be informed by a wide variety of reader feedback. Try getting a newspaper to print your letter to the editor unless you're praising the troops or some such other pap.