A commentary from local artist and art professor Katherine Sweetman has reignited a conversation about how The San Diego Union-Tribune covers the arts. Sweetman had been tapped to write one of the U-T’s new arts blogs, but instead of offering coverage of an event or a show in the local arts scene, she used her post to resign from the task and criticize the newspaper.

She lamented the U-T arts bloggers’ setup: no pay, no editing. Here’s a bit of her post as she published it directly to the U-T website:

We were a small army of of advanced-degree carrying practicing artists, college professors, and arts writers ready to take up the challenge of solving the lack of arts coverage in San Diego and fixing the mess the Union Tribune created when it laid off its only Art Critic, Robert Pincus, last June. …

And then it hit us.

We hate the Union Tribune. …

We hate the way they abruptly ended the tenure of the most important arts critic in San Diego’s history. …

It seems, to me, visual artists should be boycotting the Union Tribune not writing for them– for free!

When I say “we” in the text above, I may only mean me, but you may want to include yourself in the statement “We hate the Union Tribune” if you value paid and knowledgeable arts writers, like having an arts critic, think the people of San Diego are smart enough to want art criticism, or even if you hate their political values.

Yes, it’s true it’s hard to find a writing gig that pays well. It’s hard to find a writing gig that pays at all. But I personally will be taking my all free writing elsewhere.

The conversation about the U-T’s arts coverage exploded earlier this year when the newspaper laid off Robert Pincus, its longtime art critic. Music critic James Chute assumed the role of both music and art critic.

The paper has since launched a new arts blog section and several local artists and scholars have taken up that effort in the last few weeks. They write their own content and post it directly to the website themselves without editing. The newspaper includes a disclaimer to that end on the description for this “Sketchbook” blog section: “The sketchbook provides a glimpse inside the creative processes and challenges of working artists in San Diego. They run as created by our local contributors.”

Therefore, Sweetman could post her complaint directly to the U-T’s website without it being seen by an editor. But the U-T removed Sweetman’s post this morning. She reposted her commentary here under the title “My First and Last Article for the Union Tribune.”

I’m the arts editor for voiceofsandiego.org. Drop me a line directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531 and follow me on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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