Sometimes, Change Goes Too Far

The Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, was once said “The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.” Apparently, the powers-that-be at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution subscribe to that axiom as evidenced by their recent decision to eliminate the paper’s classical music critic…

pendulum2.jpgThe decisions supporting these cuts are neither right nor wrong but they are certainly nonsensical. Apparently, the classical music critic post isn’t the only position to be cut; according to a report at, the Journal-Constitution plans to eliminate several other full-time critics as well. The report goes on state that the paper plans to replace the traditional coverage with content that places “a stronger emphasis on enterprise reporting across all the arts beats, and, in particular…the business of culture.”

Established cultural journalists across the country are already weighing in on this topic, including such heavyweights as Alex Ross. Everyone is quick to point out that the Journal-Constitution is making a terrible mistake if they follow-through with their proposed reorganization of arts coverage. I gladly throw my voice into that chorus as well, not only because eliminating regular concert previews/reviews treads head-on into the realm of nonsense but because they may very well lose Pierre Ruhe when throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Pierre is not only an excellent music critic but he’s an equally adept cultural reporter who truly gets it when it comes to the “business of culture.” It is distressing that the Journal-Constitution’s editors don’t realize this. At the same time, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to include increased coverage in the business of culture. After all, that’s precisely what this blog is all about and the fact that it has been going strong for more than three years while increasing readership every quarter is evidence to that fact.

According to the report, a spokesperson for the Journal-Constitution is quoted as saying the change 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.”

Unfortunately, the Journal-Constitution seems to be replacing what could be defined as an arts coverage pendulum teetering at an extreme with an opposite extreme. Ideally, they would design a program which incorporates regular previews/reviews along with a steady dose of what they’ve defined as “enterprise reporting.”

The report states that the Journal-Constitution doesn’t plan to fully implement the changes until July 1, 2007; as such, there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity for the Journal-Constitution to set the classical music coverage pendulum in the middle. In order to help hasten a well balanced classical music coverage program at the Journal-Constitution, take a moment to add your name to this petition, initiated by The Atlanta Symphony. But hurry, you only have until June 7th.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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