The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is making a sad mistake. It has decided to eliminate several lead critic jobs, including that of Pierre Ruhe, a stylish and perceptive classical critic. From a story in Musical America by Steve Dollar: "Bert Roughton Jr., managing editor of the paper's newly minted print division..., insists that cultural coverage will not diminish. It will simply change. 'The volume of local arts coverage will increase,' Roughton said, promising a stronger emphasis on enterprise reporting across all the arts beats, and, in particular, what he calls the 'business of culture.' 'This will help round out our coverage. Not only will readers get criticism [of local arts events], they'll understand the context that the work is produced in.'... According to Roughton, there will still be reviews of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He just can't say under whose byline they will appear, or if they will appear as frequently as they do now." This is all contorted nonsense. Critics such as Ruhe play a crucial role in the cultural ecosystem of a city. The Atlanta Symphony, which is experiencing remarkable growth under Robert Spano, will suffer without informed reports on its activities — and its principal activity isn't behind-the-scenes bustling around but making music. What's more, I predict that the Journal-Constitution will suffer as well. No doubt the paper believes that it is adapting to modern reality by doing away with criticism in favor of profiles, process pieces, and the like, but it will probably only drive away loyal readers without attracting new ones. Spano writes in a letter to the editor: "Atlanta deserves a newspaper of substance — one that contributes to a city that values expression, ideas and creativity." It's not too late for the paper to commit itself to the arts once again.
Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press writes in with an appropriate analogy: would the Journal-Constitution feature profiles of baseball and football players, after-game locker-room interviews, and stories about the "business of sports" without covering the actual games?