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I asked the Union-Tribune’s editor, Jeff Light, for his response to the complaint that a local artist posted on the U-T’s website last night criticizing the paper’s arts coverage.
Here’s Light’s email to me, which reiterates some points he made at a public forum in July after the paper laid off longtime art critic Bob Pincus:
I don’t know Katherine (Sweetman), and I wasn’t present for the conversations that led to her decision to participate, so it’s hard for me to know what she is thinking. It seems like she is angry that we are trying to find a way to promote discussion of key topics even while we are faced with reducing costs. That is what we are doing, for sure. We think the arts are important; we’re doing everything we can to come up with new ways to enliven the conversation.
If you look at it from our point of view, our path seems virtuous. We’re facing all of these cuts, and finding new ways to make things happen. (I happen to think our arts section is pretty good, by the way.) If you look at it from Katherine’s point of view, I suppose it looks venal: Consider all the people the U-T is paying to cover sports or business or local news. Why don’t we have the payroll for another fine art critic?
You’ll hear that question in most any city in America, I fear.
For what it’s worth, I can assure you we are all doing the very best we can to make the U-T a better paper. It’s no secret that the company had to lay off a lot of good people to turn this place around. Fortunately, the U-T is now a sound business.
We are not making money on the backs of our arts bloggers, far from it. That is a terrible misreading of the facts.
If you follow our paper, you will see we have added a movie panel, wine experts, doctors, economists and librarians — along with a few artists — to the voices in our pages. We’re not doing this to exploit or offend, but to engage and to showcase open-minded people with constructive ideas about the community.
I should mention: I’ve found some interesting things (and linked to them in this blog) in the U-T’s new arts blogs, penned by a local gallery owner and arts Ph.D student, a local artist, a professor, a photographer and others.
What do you think? Chime in below.
I’m the arts editor for voiceofsandiego.org. Drop me a line directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0531 and follow me on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.