in: News & Features

May 23, 2016

To Dispossessed Freelancers BMInt Offers a Megaphone

by

muted-trumpets

Unmute These Trumpets

Coming in the context of declining page counts from Morrissey Blvd., depressing news has reached us that Boston’s newspaper of record may be dispensing with or severely curtailing the services of its freelance reviewers of the classical music and gallery scenes. And with chief classical critic Jeremy Eichler going on sabbatical next season, that will, according to one source, leave music editor Steven Smith as the last standing arts staffer (in Eichler’s absence) to write whatever reviews can make it into print

Lloyd Schwartz, Boston’s classical critic of longest standing, told the Intelligencer this afternoon, “If this is true, it would be a catastrophe for Boston’s smaller classical music groups as well as for Boston’s galleries.”

We are hearing that the Globe is looking to do more estimable in-depth features and previews and fewer reviews as part of a reinvention proposed in a staff memo by Globe Editor Brian McGrory [here]. He reportedly views his mission to stanch the flow of red ink and transform the thinning journal through “a major reassessment of its strategy and coverage priorities to keep pace with the ongoing tumult of the digital age.”

Though BMInt has no access to the Globe’s marketing research, we submit that such an assessment may not best take into account that fact that readers who enjoy classical music, a particularly well-off demographic and influential cohort, constitute stalwart Globe subscribers.

The Globe has not responded as to when or if these changes might be made manifest, but if implemented, they seem likely to become noticeable with the commencement of the new season.

Over many years we have very much enjoyed comparing our opinions with those of freelancers Matthew Guerrieri, Jeffrey Gantz, David Weininger and others. Please reconsider muting their trumpets.

18 Comments

  1. This article raises as many questions as it answers.

    Was it sourced through disgruntled Globe writers? Is the Globe intending to tell its readers about these proposed changes? Should a once great metropolitan newspaper be relying on freelancers?

    Comment by denovo2 — May 24, 2016 at 7:11 am

  2. – It was sourced multiply. Not sure about states of gruntlement. No one is ever happy about struggling financially and downsizing, even (or especially) those who have to do it.

    – Why would it?

    – Just about all papers rely on stringers for coverage (not just arts) and always have. In this freeby climate we are lucky they still have staff lead critics, quite aside from the excellence of some of them. The stringer change is especially concerning because this batch is so capable. Not to mention the trend toward previews, assuming it materializes.

    Comment by david moran — May 24, 2016 at 8:54 am

  3. Julie Barros is putting together a master plan for the arts, a plan that doesn’t appear to have any money behind it. One thing she could do that doesn’t require any City money is lean on the Globe to maintain their full roster of arts critics. Reviews are the lifeblood of small performing arts ensembles such as the Boston Camerata.

    Comment by brett donham — May 24, 2016 at 8:55 am

  4. I look forward to reading Matthew Guerrieri’s column “Score” in the Globe. It is not a review, but a musicological commentary. Today’s is about Brahm’s final composition Op.122. According to Matthew, Peggy Pearson’s Winsor Music will perform three of the preludes tonight. I will miss these interesting columns.

    Comment by Julian — May 24, 2016 at 9:02 am

  5. I can only hope that this will free crucial resources to cover the daily doings of Tom and Giselle.

    Comment by Mark — May 24, 2016 at 12:42 pm

  6. I would be very sad if this is true. I enjoy reading reviews by all of those writers; and I agree with the post above, I’ve been enjoying Matthew Guerrieri’s “musicological commentary” articles as well as Jeremy Eichler’s more exploratory articles (like Mahler’s hut). We need reviewers and critics more than ever.

    As a digital-only subscriber of the Globe, I find this news particularly frustrating, because concert reviews and classical-music columns have been very difficult to find on its digital formats. I find and read the Globe reviews through Twitter. If the articles were easier to find, maybe more people would read them.

    Comment by Yukiko — May 24, 2016 at 1:51 pm

  7. Altogether typical:

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/05/22/final-brahms-prelude-rage-against-dying-light/BoTdF3cKuEtbVAU9pWUV2O/story.html

    Comment by david moran — May 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm

  8. >> concert reviews and classical-music columns have been very difficult to find on its digital formats.

    Details? I have had no problem finding and sending the links to others, though I guess I’ve had to google once or twice.

    Comment by david moran — May 24, 2016 at 8:41 pm

  9. A longstanding local sometime critic suggests this thought:

    \\ … so far no commenter has said what I take to be obvious: that the apparently flourishing state of BMInt provides the Globe with a ready excuse to cut everyone loose.

    Comment by david moran — May 25, 2016 at 1:22 am

  10. This article has drawn much attention. The latest notice comes from Alex Ross:

    http://www.therestisnoise.com/2016/05/bad-news-for-criticism-at-the-boston-globe.html

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — May 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

  11. A fine short writeup, though a pity Ross did not mention Jeffrey Gantz, who like his colleagues has become in my reading this fluent, scholarly, proportionate critic.

    Comment by david moran — May 25, 2016 at 2:14 pm

  12. I read this with disappointment but not great surprise since this sort of cutting away of music and arts coverage has been under way for some time. One recalls many a concert review from multiple sources in print barely 15 years ago and as a concert singer who sang with several choruses many concerts were frequently reviewed fully or in some fashion acknowledged. I also note that the first thing to get laid on the chopping block in this country is music and art and that includes reviews. More is the loss and the pity.
    If this comes to pass my subscription to the Globe will be cancelled instantly with no chance of renewal.

    Comment by Peter Barkley — May 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm

  13. Details:
    – the daily Globe email digests rarely include links to concert reviews
    – the now-defunct Globe app did not list reviews in their Arts tab

    – We can indeed find reviews online if we know they exist; I worry that casual digital readers may not even know that these articles exist.

    – With that said, the Globe Arts and Music editors are good about posting articles on Twitter, so I have easily found reviews there.

    Comment by Yukiko — May 25, 2016 at 9:29 pm

  14. If true this development will have a trickle-down effect for good young artists. Musicians both starting and established depends on these. For the young, no reviews translates into no auditions, and then no careers.

    Comment by Ian Pomerantz — May 26, 2016 at 12:15 am

  15. Thanks for responding and filling in the info. Appreciated.
    I was speaking only of online (conventional browser via PC). When, clicking the online ‘tabs’, one goes to

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music

    it is trivial to drill down (Ctrl-F to search) to the latest Eichler, Weininger, and Guerrieri, plus upcoming; for Gantz’s latest (perhaps because it was on the Norton awards), a search is required.

    >> We can indeed find reviews online if we know they exist; I worry that casual digital readers may not even know that these articles exist.

    I don’t know what this means, exactly. The teasers or hed links should be placed higher? Yeah, it’s always hard to balance clean higher-page layout with thoroughness of content. The Globe seems no worse than other big papers in this regard, re preview/promo/listings too, although I don’t track these things more than cursorily. Presumably those who attended and want to see ‘official’ takes know how to find their review? Smith’s strong report on the new opera ‘Beowulf’, for example, is right there on the music page given above.

    I’m not particularly defending the Globe, making the best of terrible and worsening circumstance today. But I can hardly recall how many times over the decades I have been of-course-everyone-knows told, at dinner and cocktail parties, how bad the Globe coverage is at that moment, how paltry, how much less quantity (sometimes quality) than in the past, how much better and ampler it was back when, etc., etc., etc.. And as someone who probably has not missed a Globe classical review for the last 50 years (and once wrote a few), I know the assertions are, in general, just not accurate.

    Comment by david moran — May 26, 2016 at 12:38 am

  16. Tom & Giselle? Far more likely: the Red Sox…but on an inside page. The front page seems to be the favored cause or politician du jour. Haven’t looked at the Thursday Globe Calendar in years; does it still even exist? As for reviewers’ using the BMI, enough reviewers want to get paid for their efforts; this would mean being charged to get the BMI: and what would that do for the BMI “business model”?

    Comment by Nathan Redshield — May 29, 2016 at 11:52 am

  17. Mr. Redshield: The Thursday Globe Calendar has been gone for years. The Phoenix filled the gap until its untimely demise. B-MINT and the New England Early Music calendar are doing their darndest these days.

    Mr. Moran: Please explain drilling down. I am not an internet expert and am eager to learn.

    Comment by perry41 — May 29, 2016 at 11:38 pm

  18. H,lmgtfy (http://lmgtfy.com/):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drill_down

    So: click the link, use down arrow or scroll bar at right to move down the page until you find what you want. In this Globe case with a lot of articles, you also can employ the keyboard Find function to look for ‘classical’. Finally, you can use the magnifier icon at the top of most pages to search for ‘guerrieri’. Etc. HTH.

    Comment by david moran — May 30, 2016 at 10:54 am

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