IN: News & Features

Madonna in Ascension


Zoe Madonna (Erich Burnett photo)
Zoë Madonna (Erich Burnett photo)

In the last few years of financial crises for newspaper large and small, many publishers have sought to develop relationships with nonprofit foundations, including the funding of fellowships in service of, for example, investigative reporting. For foundations to subsidize cultural and arts reporting is much more unusual.

It is therefore with pleasure and advocacy, plus smidgens of pride and envy, that BMInt notes that the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Rubin Institute for Music Criticism and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation will be subsidizing a 10-month ad-hoc position in music journalism at the Boston Globe for Zoë Madonna. (Classical staffer Jeremy Eichler is on sabbatical.) Madonna, 2014 winner of the Rubin Prize in Music Criticism, came to our attention when she offered to write for BMInt, although her run extended to three reviews only (here, here, and here).

Our response to the trumpeting of this flow of funds from a West Coast philanthropy to a major East Coast newspaper is to note that running good music journalism in a for-profit rag did not, once upon a time, require financial support beyond the deep pockets of publishers and advertisers. Globe readers have benefited from many golden years of reviews from brandname staffers like Jeremy Eichler and for even longer from Richard Dyer and before him Michael Steinberg. (Nor do we fail to benefit from the fine observations currently submitted by correspondents Matthew Guerrieri, Jeffrey Gantz, and David Weininger, still active despite earlier announcement of stringer depletion.) We can even wax nostalgic for older eras when several dailies covered the Boston classical scene.

Now much of that coverage comes from electronic journals such as this one, all-volunteer yet with extensive and apparently valuable coverage. (So hey, foundations, what about us?)

Next week, the other Madonna begins her new post as chief classical music critic for the Globe, an appointment that covers the leave by Eichler, currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. According to the press release, “Following the partnership with the Globe, SFCM, the Rubin Institute, and the Getty Foundation will consider an ongoing strategy to support this endeavor on a national scale.” (Again: Yoo-hoo!)

From the release: “The Rubin Institute for Music Criticism at SFCM seeks to prepare superb young writers as music journalists. Through a generous gift from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the partnership with the Globe will test a concept whereby a nonprofit consortium can team with a major news outlet to create a financially sustainable model for the work of music journalists. In such a program, news outlets will retain complete editorial control over assignments and content and they will provide some funding as well. The model is designed to facilitate part-time work by critics and will not be used to supplant existing full-time positions.”

Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co. and benefactor of the Rubin Institute, praised the new partnership: “The Boston Globe is one of the great American newspapers. That it has chosen to engage with us in this groundbreaking endeavor is particularly meaningful to me as a former journalist. It is also thrilling to see a winner of the Institute’s prize gainfully employed writing music criticism at a Pulitzer Prize-winning paper. I hope the Globe’s willingness to partner with us will be a model for other newspapers across the land.”

Globe editor Brian McGrory said, “We could not be more delighted to participate in this novel experiment with such worthy partners. We are excited about the benefit to our industry, to some of the great cultural institutions of Boston, and most especially to our readership, which will very much appreciate the proven talents of this young critic.” Lisa Delan, director of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, commented, “Music journalism and music criticism are essential to the health of the classical music ecosystem. The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation is committed to facilitating new pathways for sustaining and expanding music journalism and bridging the gap between classical music and popular culture. We are excited to explore this promising partnership with SFCM, the Rubin Institute and the Boston Globe.”

“This innovative partnership with the Globe can serve as a new model for supporting thoughtful, critical, and unbiased journalism in the future,” stated SFCM president David H. Stull. “We need to maintain and advance the qualitative discourse on music, and this initiative can illuminate a new means of support for writers across the profession. I am thrilled the Boston Globe is pioneering this effort.”

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