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July 20, 2005

Reporting and Ink Measurement

Douglas --

But Dan's contributions to our coverage show that this model (separation of criticism and reporting) can work if a paper is willing to commit its resources to it. I obviously can't answer for other papers interest or ability to do this, but any reporter on any beat has to learn the field.

Before Dan, we had some very good coverage of the institutions from Robin Pogrebin and other general culture reporters; again, if they felt thrown in at the deep end of a particular story, or wanted a reality check, all they had to do was call us. On a story by story basis, it's easy enough to give someone their bearings. They don't have to assimilate the secrets of the music world all at once.

I did our music reporting for a while, and while I have colleagues who absolutely love going after stories about the business side of the music world, I found it kind of tedious. I'm talking about strikes and budgets and financial crises and hirings and firings and management and nuts and bolts -- stories that, once you're written 10 of them, are the same with just the names and numbers changed, and in any case, are business reporting, not music writing.

My interest -- the reason I got into this -- is in writing about music and how it's made. The seamy underside of the music business, how it runs, and the creatures who run it -- let me put it this way: I read about these things because it's my job to know about it, but if I were "merely a reader," I'd read the reviews, because I want to know who's playing what, and how they're playing; and I'd read the profiles, because I want to know what people who make music have to say for themselves, but the business stuff -- nah. Not to disparage those who write this coverage or who like reading it. It just not the part of musical life that interests me.

I should add that this view not only doesn't represent the institutional view of my paper, but is markedly out of step with it. Howell Raines, during his brief and unhappy editorship, decided that what's interesting about culture is the money it generates, and he set about making the culture department a vassal of the business desk. That has been reversed to some extent, because the culture desk has editors who are sincerely interested in (and knowlegeable about) culture as culture, rather than culture as business. But business watching is definitely a part of the mandate, and it's here to stay.

About Baltimore: Yeah, I think it was calculated. OBVIOUSLY it was calculated: they went out of their way to leak the story, and even if part of it got away from them (the player rebellion), I think they saw/see that as all well and good, because like many institutions, they probably regard the measure of the column inches as the main issue. Moreover, they got enough ink -- and within it, sufficient praise of both the orchestra and Ms. Alsop -- to assure themselves that the Baltimore Symphony is a certified big deal, an orchestra whose goings-on are worthy of extensive national news coverage. I don't think they would regard this as a "minor media pop" at all, and I doubt they would agree that they have come off looking incompetent or disrespectful of their musicians: they had a majority vote, they claimed a sense of urgency, and in the end the musicians said they would fall into step, and in the end, if Ms. Alsop does well, all the negative stuff will fade away just as it does EVERY time there's a strike or protracted negotiations, with all their attendant weeks of coverage and extreme nastiness. Case(s)in point -- when you think of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the New York Philharmonic or the New York City Opera, what comes to mind? Is the musicmaking those institutions do, or do you still think much about the recriminations they and their managements hurled at each other daily during their most recent labor disputes?

And as a bonus, the orchestra knows that everyone will tune in again in three years, when Ms. Alsop's first contract is up for renewal.


Posted by akozinn at July 20, 2005 10:42 PM


"And as a bonus, the orchestra knows that everyone will tune in again in three years, when Ms. Alsop's first contract is up for renewal."

Speaking of the art and economics of classical music, would that be $1.5 million or $2.0 million later in terms of Ms Alsop's compensation package (as opposed to $1.5 million for the concertmaster/mistress and $225,000 for the base pay for the musicians)? [ See Drew McManus, at www.artsjournal.com/adaptistration for details on his analysis of the 2005 ICSOM Compensation Report on the economics of being an orchestral musician; much less a composer or librettist].

I agree that the leaking of Ms Alsop's selection was a publicity ploy, especially given Mr Glicker's careful nurturing of the public relations of the Artistic Director Search as a highly process-oriented and transparent professional effort.

I guess "Advice and Consent" has different meanings in the world of democratic national governance and jurisprudence, and the still haphazard, and stratified, world of the "classical music biz."

Back to the latest London terror alert ...

Posted by: Garth Trinkl at July 21, 2005 06:16 AM

Does Douglas's newspaper have a corrections column? In my comment yesterday on Drew McManus's ArtsJournal.com analysis of ICSOM Music Director, Executive Director, orchestral leader, and orchestral musician compensation data, in the U.S., I meant to write "... as opposed to $750,000 for the concertmaster/mistress...". Sorry for the error.

Posted by: Garth Trinkl at July 22, 2005 07:28 AM

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