Thursday News: NYT to cut arts coverage, National Book Awards, benign book reviewing, and digital security while protesting
New York Times & Wall Street Journal Prepare To Slash Entertainment Coverage And Staff As Print Ads Vanish – Despite denials from the paper itself, the New York Times is, according to multiple sources, preparing to vastly reduce their arts coverage (they already cut their tri-state coverage earlier this fall). The Wall Street Journal has already started making changes to its arts coverage. That the NYT in particular has been viewed as critically important to the New York cultural and restaurant scene makes these rumored shifts especially grim.
As print advertising revenues continue to fall off the cliff, reviews and features related to film, theater and the rest of the arts are being cut at New York’s two prominent broadsheets, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Deadline reported in August that the Times had stopped reviewing theater, restaurants and art galleries in the Metro region, and bid farewell to the freelance critics and reporters who contributed to that coverage. That was just the precursor, however, to a more seismic shift in the Paper of Record’s plan for culture news coverage, as the Times absorbs a 19% drop in third-quarter advertising revenue, according to its own report. . . .
The revamped (NYT) Arts front page will have no more than three stories (there now are sometimes as many as six) anchored by an oversize photograph, according to sources who have been apprised of the changes. (Today’s Arts section is a good example of what the section will more typically look like.) Critics have been urged to stop covering events least likely to appeal to online subscribers: indie movies having brief runs in art houses; one-night-only concerts, off- and off-off-Broadway shows that aren’t star-driven, cabaret performances, and small art galleries. Many of the Times‘ contingent of freelance contributors, who provide much of that coverage, are likely to meet the same fate as the regional freelancers last summer. But even staff critics have been given the same marching orders, telling Deadline they are being pressured more frequently by editors to focus on higher-profile events.- Deadline
We read all 20 National Book Award nominees for 2016. Here’s what we thought. – While I wouldn’t necessarily count on the commentaries, at least this piece provides some background on the National Book Award nominees and winners, for each category (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature). Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad won for fiction, Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America won for nonfiction, with Daniel Borzutzky taking the poetry award for The Performance of Being Human, and March: Book Three (a collection of “graphic memoirs”) winning for young people’s lit. – Vox
Death of the hatchet job – Fascinating piece on the evolution of book criticism and the demise of the “blood sport” of book reviewing (like Mark Twain’s takedown of James Fenimore Cooper) and the current climate, which seems to discourage critical reviewing in favor of tepid recommendation. While the ad hominem “hatchet job” is not a desirable standard, neither is the anemic “endorsement” that characterizes so much of what passes for reviewing, from both professionals and amateurs. Interesting to think about this essay in the context of the NYT news and the Vox book award commentaries.
This is not a complaint about the Spectator, the Guardian or the Literary Review, nor, indeed, about my current sponsor, all of which are edited with tact, dash and discrimination and are consistently excellent in their books-world coverage. It is merely to note that a literary culture whose tough-mindedness 20 years ago often verged on outright cruelty, has turned horribly emollient, to the point where it sometimes seems that books are not so much criticised, favourably or unfavourably, as simply endorsed. Interestingly, the suspicion that the review pages exist only to bring good news to the true believer has crossed over into other areas of the arts. The music magazines Mojo and Uncut often carry letters from readers complaining that virtually every new album under review gets three or four stars out of five, or seven or eight marks out of ten, and surely they can’t all be that good? – New Statesman
Digital Security Tips for Protesters – Oh, how I love the EFF. From using a prepaid phone to recording without unlocking your device and walking rather than driving to a protest (so as to avoid having cameras read your license plate), these tips are a good reminder of the civil rights we have lost in the U.S. over the last 15 years.
After the election, individuals took to the streets across the country to express their outrage and disappointment at the result of the U.S. presidential election. Many protesters may not be aware of the unfortunate fact that exercising their First Amendment rights may open themselves up to certain risks. Those engaging in peaceful protest may be subject to search or arrest, have their movements and associations mapped, or otherwise become targets of surveillance and repression. It is important that in a democracy citizens exercise their right to peaceably assemble, and demonstrators should be aware of a few precautions they can take to keep themselves and their data safe. Here we present 10 security tips for protesting in the digital age. – Electronic Frontier Foundation
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”-Dorothy Parker
I have to say I love reading old book reviews like Mark Twain’s review of Fenimore Cooper (or anyone else for that matter) and the one Lostshadows quoted by Dorothy Parker but I can understand not wanting to be on the receiving end of one too.
What does it say about the state of our country that the article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation should be even remotely relevant? I feel so sad…
Good for the EFF (if people are looking for places to donate, that’s a great one). I would also remind people that they should think about what network their burner is likely to use. You probably want to avoid ones that use AT&T, given their record of cooperation with government requests for surveillance. And another thing to consider is how much more police and other organizations are using photo and video evidence. So wear a baseball cap and unbranded, uninteresting clothing if you are engaging in activist behavior.
I just made my yearly donation to the EFF and this is precisely why I continue to support them. Thank you for a very timely article.