More Cutbacks for Arts Coverage in Traditional Media

Last week, I got this email from Jo Ledingham, the theatre critic at The Vancouver Courier:

As a freelance theatre critic, I reviewed more than a hundred local theatre productions on the pages of The Courier last year. However, due to recent cutbacks in the paper’s freelance budget, reviews (with the same total count of six hundred and fifty words) will now appear in one edition per week rather than the previous two.

 

Twice named “Best Community Newspaper in BC” and Canada’s largest distributed community newspaper, with a circulation of more than a quarter of a million, The Courier has served the Vancouver theatre community very well until now.

 

Fewer reviews will have a negative impact on local theatre makers and theatregoers. Productions with short runs and non-professional shows may no longer be reviewed. Grant applications – which rely to some extent on professional reviews and critiques – will be affected. And without reviews, small, independent theatre companies with slim marketing budgets will be further challenged to find audiences.

 

I urge you to let The Courier know how this reduced coverage will affect your theatre company as well as the future of Vancouver’s vibrant but still financially troubled theatre community. You can reach Barry Link, Editor, at [email protected]. Sooner is better than later!

 

As one of my fellow critics urged, “To the barricades!”

 

Jo

 

Let me just say off the top that I adore Jo. Because of my work as a theatre publicist, we run into each other all the time at shows, and we often have conversations off line about our love of theatre, and who’s doing great work in this city. She got into the crazy business of being a theatre reviewer when Colin Thomas, the critic for The Straight, was writing his own plays and needed to take a sabbatical. She was working on her MA in Drama at UBC at the time, and although the idea terrified her, she took up the torch. Many years, and many reviews have passed since then.

 

Four years ago, when I went full-time with my theatre publicity biz, there were 6 theater critics in Vancouver: The Sun, the Province, The Courier, The Straight, The Globe and Mail and The WestEnder all had people that they sent out, plus Paul Grant at CBC Radio, and a few bloggers on the side. Then Jerry left The Province, The WestEnder’s reviews became spotty, and The Sun was publishing about one a week. That basically left Colin and Jo.

 

If Jo’s now to be cut back to half time, we are losing more space for theatre in traditional forms of media in this town. It’s already a challenge to get critics out–not because they don’t want to see the plays, but because there is simply not enough space to write about everything that’s going on in this town.

 

Now, before you get all up in arms, I am aware of all the bloggers out there–Plank, Review from the House, Review Vancouver and Gay Vancouver, to name a few, and I appreciate what they are doing. Many of the theatre critics, in fact, have, recognizing this is the way the world is going, started their own blogs and websites. The problem is, (and I had this conversation with Jo), making a blog pay your rent. Jerry’s website is here and Colin’s here. I love blogging, I am a blogger, but there is something about a written review in an established newspaper….

 

So, let’s help Jo out and send some emails to her editor. Maybe if we make a big enough stink, we can stop this from happening.

 

Previous posts on this theme:


UPDATE: FEBRUARY 20, 2012
I thought it might be useful to put together a listing of all the theatre reviewing that’s happening in Vancouver. Please post to comments below if I’ve missed.
Globe and Mail
The Vancouver Sun
The Province
The Georgia Straight
The Courier
The Westender
Review from the House
Review Vancouver
Gay Vancouver
Plank Magazine
Vancouver Plays
Hummingbird 604
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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 4

  1. “I actually hardly ever buy a newspaper. Not that I don¹t like to read a weekend paper with a cup of coffee, and I pretty much read the Georgia Straight every week, but I just don¹t have the time to sit down and read a newspaper.”

    Weren’t these your words in 2010?

    1. I won’t bother to try to deny it. The interwebz live forever! 😉

      But there is a difference between the “personal” me and the “professional” me. While, as a member of the public who goes to see theatre, I normally read reviews online, as a publicist, printed reviews, really can make or break a show. I’ve done publicity for shows that got bad reviews, and affected them at the box office. You could easily argue that they likely weren’t really good shows, and maybe they deserved to not do well, but I do absolutely recognize that print reviews are incredibly important.

      Many theatre companies use them for grant applications, or if they are putting together a kit to try to sell their show to tour.

      I think they are very important, and I have a ton of respect for Jo’s voice.

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