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Another One Bites The Dust

March 4, 2008

Arts blogs and commentary pages in cultural journals have been full of indignant words about the recent job severances of a number of staff arts critics at media outlets. Critics in the Bay Area have been hanging on by the skin of their teeth up until now -- unless they write about dance, in which case they've seen their opportunities shrink radically. SF Weekly turned its dance critic out of doors several years ago. Meanwhile The Chronicle only employs freelancers at this point. And this in the home of one of the world's finest dance companies, The San Francisco Ballet.

Now, the axe has fallen on my theatre critic colleague at The Oakland Tribune -- Chad Jones. Chad wasn't at all surprised at the news that he was being let go. His reviews had moved from the hard copy paper to the online format a while ago. He'd also gone from writing about theatre exclusively to covering theatre as part of a more general arts beat which included editing work.

The loss of one of the major critical voices in Bay Area performing arts scene is detrimental to the level of critical discourse surrounding local culture. And as far as I'm concerned, that's one of the major reasons that the arts exist -- to make us think about the world we live in and connect with each other. Without powerful voices to inspire and anchor the discussions, the arts exist in more of a vacuum than before. The loss of space devoted to arts criticism in The Tribune also hampers the ability of theatre companies to get word out about their work. It's one less place for readers to get informed about what's going on in their vicinity.

Chad says he'll continue writing about the arts under his own steam, via his blog, I happen to think that the online format is in some ways a much more powerful and immediate place for commentary about culture because it inspires instant responses and spontaneous relationships between readers (as well as with the blog's creator.) The role of online media in relation to the arts will only become more and more important as time goes on. On the other hand, the online format's emphasis on speed and brevity over in-depth thought and analysis makes me wonder if we might start to see less of the rigorous, detailed writing about art and its relationship to society at large that is (or was) more commonly found in old-style media formats, like newspapers.

Chad will be helming a Q&A this Friday with playwright Will Eno and director Les Waters regarding their production of Eno's latest work, Tragedy: A Tragedy at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The event happens at 7 p.m. on the Thrust Stage (2025 Addison St., Berkeley).


  • Thanks for the commentary, Chloe.
    My blog will actually continue at beginning Monday, March 10. - Chad

    By Blogger CSJ, At March 6, 2008 at 4:59 PM  

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