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NY Magazine - firing Tobi Tobias


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 31 July 2002 - 07:14 AM

Thanks for posting that, Leigh.

There's an archive of Tobias's New York magazine pieces at http://www.nymag.com...e.cfm?cat_id=11

A quick check of her pieces shows that she covered a broad variety of dance, including a lot of the smaller modern dance companies that don't get much coverage.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 30 July 2002 - 05:15 PM

I received the following email a few minutes ago from Tobi Tobias:

Dear Colleagues & Friends,

I am sorry to have to tell you that, for budgetary reasons, New York magazine has decided to discontinue its dance column.

tt

--------------------------------------

Tobias's last column, on the Kirov, will run -- presumably next week. To be clear, she will not be replaced. They are cutting dance reviews.

This is MY request to all Ballet Alertniks, NOT Tobias's: If any of you are concerned about this -- whether you are, or are not, a fan of Tobi Tobias's criticism, but if you care that the New York dance scene has a diversity of voices writing about it -- please email your concerns to the editor

caroline_miller@newyorkmag.com


Thank you.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 31 July 2002 - 07:45 AM

Thanks, Calliope. I wrote along the same lines. I think this is important on two grounds, one, because Tobias's is such a distinctive voice, brilliant writing, rigorous standards. And two, because how in the **** can NYMag say it represents NY without talking about dance???

I'm still stunned by this -- and very alarmed. The Voice has been cutting back dance space. Clive Barnes in the NYPost is reduced to three and four-sentence reviews -- and kudos to Mr. Barnes for hanging in there, and squeezing something of value into those three or four sentences. Joan Acocella does not write very often about dance in the New Yorker -- they're always interesting pieces, but the magazine does not offer comprehensive coverage.

That reduces the New York dance scene to two papers -- the NYTimes, which is also cutting back coverage, not always covering cast changes -- appalling for "the paper of record" and Robert Greskovic in the Wall Street Journal. (Along with the short reviews in the Voice and Barnes' mini-reviews.)

I suppose I'm struck even more by this because of two factors: the Net has made me more aware of the richness of criticism in London. There are eight critics writing on a daily or weekly basis in newspapers, and they have Dance Now, Dancing Times, and Dance Europe -- and is Dance Express still running? Now, there's a city. Teeny little New York. There's Ballet Review. Even Dance Mag moved out of town. What's going on there?

Secondly, because I just spent ten years researching a dancer's career, I'm keenly aware of the need for a diversity of voices. In the 1950s and 1960s, there were 8 critics in CHICAGO, much less New York. When you have that many views, you can begin to get an accurate picture of a dancer, or a ballet. If all eight think one thing, that's a clue. If the eight split 3-3-2 (love, hate, dunno) that's another, and if that 3-3-2 split stays, you can see a pattern: this one really will never like modern dance, this one hates ballet, this one only likes blond(e)s, etc.

Who would want to write a history of the period from about 1980 to the present I can't imagine, but if they do, good luck. They'll need a medium to connect to the spirit world to get enough opinions upon which to make a judgment.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 31 July 2002 - 08:46 AM

True, but I don't think they do reviews. Previews are a different animal.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 31 July 2002 - 09:04 AM

Patricia, since Tobais will not be replaced, I think we can take them at their word and believe that it was "due to budgetary considerations." I read that as "dance isn't important enough to warrant the measly page and a half we give it 15 times a year," but that's my interpretation :cool:

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 31 July 2002 - 09:57 AM

I agree, piccolo -- that's why this is bad news, I think. You have two problems now. Editors, generally, are not tuned into dance so they have no personal interest. And, then, dance doesn't attract the same crowds as rock concerts. Ergo, it must be an inferior art form :cool: I hope you wrote this to them.

Thank you, BW. I think if a lot of subscribers wrote -- or people who buy the magazine weekly when there's a dance review in it, which is what I've done, or those of you outside of New York who access it by the net. That might mean something to them. At least they will know that DANCE MATTERS.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 03:10 PM

I got a response to my email from Ms. Miller. Several people have emailed me similar responses, so I feel comfortable posting this. It's a general response, not a personal one.

I think her points can be debated and intend to do so. It seems that what they're doing is cutting a freelancer (so how much could she make? I write this as a freelancer) and limiting the dance coverage to listings and a few previews -- what we in the trade call "puff pieces."

While preview pieces are valuable in alerting ticketbuyers to what's coming up, I think dance fans, like sports fans, want to read about how the game turned out.

Again, Ms. Miller's email is: caroline_miller@newyorkmag.com

Here's the letter.

Dear Ms. Tomalonis,

Thanks for your letter about our dance coverage. It's true that I decided
not to renew Tobi's contract. In these difficult times, every publication
in America has had to make painful choices, focusing limited resources on
work that best serves its readers. While I have valued Tobi's contribution
to the magazine, I believe that, for the time being, the best way we can
provide ongoing coverage of dance is in other parts of the magazine.

This doesn't mean we don't consider dance worthy of coverage, or that we are going to abandon the dance ommunity. We will continue to cover dance in previews, listings and features by other staff members. Dance will be included in the upcoming Fall Preview issue, as usual, and we have a feature on Mark Morris coming up later in the fall.

Caroline Miller

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 02 August 2002 - 06:49 AM

Dance Insider has a story on this today, and a very detailed list of emails, fax and phone numbers of people to contact.

http://www.danceinsi...02/f0802_1.html

I've gotten phonecalls and emails constantly for the past two days -- presenters, funders, dancers, dance lovers and critics. All said they have written, there are two print articles I know of in the works -- there's a brief mention in the LATimes this morning, but I couldn't access it. (It's a site where you have to register and I kept getting a "we're having trouble processing this, try back later" message).

The DanceInsider piece points out that this has been coming for years -- Tobias' coverage has been cut back substantially over the past decade, as has Deborah Jowitt's in the Village Voice.

This is a good time to let these magazines know that we are out here and we care what they print. So please, don't be shy :cool:

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 02 August 2002 - 08:47 AM

Thanks very much for posting this, Ari.

What's exciting about this is that I think the dance community -- the presenters, the dancers, the company managers -- who have been gritting their teeth for the past 20 years about the dearth of coverage of dance, saying, "Of course, we understand. Times are tough." (During the '90s bubble????) "But could you please possibly cover the world premiere of our new work? Oh, thank you so much. Of course, we understand you couldn't begin to consider a preview," etc etc. They can't complain about little coverage because of fear of even less coverage as a "punishment" for daring to question the judgment of the accountants -- I'm sorry. I mean editors. BUT they can scream about no coverage. And they are screaming.

What I hope is that this will carry over to other publications. It's time that dance stood up and was counted. There is no basis for the assumption by many newspapers and magazines that there's no interest in dance. Dance USa has lots of statistics on this -- audience demographics, real numbers. Their favorite is that more people attend ballet performances than NFL games. The problem is that dance is not part of the world of most, if not all, editors and publishers.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 02 August 2002 - 12:30 PM

Time Out is covering this issue by running an interview with Tobias by Gia Kourlas; it will be on newstands next Wednesday. This is not on line, and I can't get this magazine down here, so I'm counting on New Yorkers to fill us in!

One error in the LATimes article -- the word "reviews" appears; it should be "previews."

And the last sentence in the Miller quote in the LATimes is an addition; it's not in the reply the magazine is using to respond to emailers.

Calliope, I haven't had time to run down the latest figures today; the people I need to talk to are out of town. I'll try Monday. The last survey I remember reading was that dance attendance was up, but that was several years ago and things can change very quickly.

dirac, none of the people I've talked to or gotten messages from have mentioned personal opinions about Tobias or her writing -- to everyone's surprise, I think. Perhaps Dance Insider is antcipating, as many did, that there would be some who'd say "she slammed me, good riddance," but people seem to be looking at the larger issue.

I've also found over the years that Tobias is one of those critics -- Croce was another -- that artists loved to mutter about, until she gave them a good review. THEN the opinion changed (which is perfectlly natural) and this is another way of saying that Tobias is respected.

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 04 August 2002 - 11:30 AM

I frankly didn't expect this to be a continuing news story, but it's turning out that way. I've learned that there's one dance organization with a 1400 member name mailing list that has requested its members to email their views on this matter.

I'm going to move this over to the Books, Magazines and Critics thread. I'm also going to split off the letters that people have posted. Several people who aren't members here, and who, I think, are not accustomed to internet message boards, have sent me emails with copies of their letters to post, so I'll be doing that. People are checking the coverage here for updates.

I'd also like to emphasize that, although it's pretty obvious where I, and many others, stand on this issue, this, like any other topic, is open to discussion. If you think NYMagazine did the right thing -- please feel free to say so. And if you wish they'd reconsider and restore dance reviews to NYMagazine but think that your voice doesn't matter, it does. They're counting. 50 emails may not matter. 1,000 may well matter. So please write, if you haven't done so, or reply to Ms. Miller's letter, if you'd like to counter her points.

caroline_miller@newyorkmag.com

#12 atm711

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Posted 31 July 2002 - 02:38 PM

I subscribe to 'New York Magazine' for two reasons:

l. I am hooked on their puzzle.

2. Tobi Tobias, my favorite NYC critic.

I , too, shall e-mail the Magazine.

#13 cargill

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Posted 31 July 2002 - 11:48 AM

I am sure I was like so many other people, looking through the dictionary for synonyms to shocking, and polite ways of saying ignorant decision! I expect ad revenues are down, but it is very depressing. Wonderful though specialized magazines are, it is so important for general interest magazines to have a broad coverage.

#14 dirac

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Posted 31 July 2002 - 01:12 PM

Well, I have written, although I did not issue a threat to cancel my subscription, as I do read the magazine for much else besides dance. However, I did express myself in strong terms similar to those expressed by others before me, although not nearly so eloquently. Okay, cut back if you have to (although that would be bad enough), but eliminate coverage entirely? It is genuinely appalling.


However, I would add that if you're not subscribing or buying newsstand copies, but only checking out the Internet freebies, your voice will not carry a great deal of weight. It's a very tough environment for magazines and newspapers right now, and if you're not buying, you're not helping. Newspapers such as the Washington Post, to take only one example, are sinking millions into their Web sites, with not much in the way of financial return, as of yet.


I hope The New Yorker takes note of this and picks up a little of the slack. I must say I've been disturbed by the shrinkage in that magazine's dance coverage. It has a much wider national reach than New York, and out-of-town subscribers are getting a more sharply limited view of the dance scene than they used to. I suppose it would be asking too much for them to bring in another critic, as the magazine has often done for theatre and film, for example. But it would be nice if it did, if Acocella has other things to do. Goodness knows there seem to be increasing numbers available.......

#15 dirac

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Posted 01 August 2002 - 11:30 AM

From Newsday, an item on Primedia's sale of Chicago magazine. Primedia is New York's parent company and has serious debt problems. This article also discusses rumors of a sale of New York. It notes that the magazine seems to be surviving well in the current economic environment:




http://www.newsday.c.....usiness-print


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