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Alexandra

NY Magazine - firing Tobi Tobias

64 posts in this topic

OK, what is going on here?

This represents a significant change in their story and I think they should be called on it.

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New York Magazine isn't the only thing that's evolving. Here's the form responses I know of, in order. Changes in bold.

Form Response #1: 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 community. 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.

Form Response #2: Thanks for your letter. It's true that we're not going to continue running Tobi's reviews, but, believe me, we are not abandoning dance coverage. We'll continue to run previews, listings and features, and are committed to making sure dance gets the attention it deserves, in every way we can. I know you're aware that every publication in America, like all arts organizations, has had to make painful descisions on how to deploy limited resources to give readers what they value most. This is something we feel we have to do at this point; nonetheless, as we go forward we'll continue to look for ways to support the dance community in the city.

Form Response #3: It's true that we're not going to continue running Tobi's reviews, but, believe me, we are not abandoning dance coverage. We'll continue to run previews, listings and features, and are committed to making sure dance gets the attention it deserves, in every way we can. As you have observed, every publication in America, like every arts organization, has had to make painful decisions on how to deploy limited resources to give readers what they value most. This is something we feel we have to do at this point; it doesn't mean that we're not serious about dance and other arts in the city. Like all organisms, magazines need to keep evolving, developing new voices and new approaches.

A response received over the past weekend #4: Despite what seems to be going around the dance world, we are not discontinuing dance coverage in New York magazine. It's true that we decided not to renew Tobi Tobias's contract. We felt we needed a change, a new voice or critical approach that would broaden the audience for our dance coverage, which is at this point a tiny percentage of our readers. (If you want to attract new audiences to dance, rather than just talk to veterans and insiders, you have to innovate.) In the short term, until we find the right voice, we'll continue to run previews, listings and features by other writers.

Response #5: Despite what you have heard going around the dance world, we are not discontinuing our dance coverage. It's true that we did decide not to renew Tobi Tobias's contract. We felt it was time for a change. But we will be looking for a new voice, and in the meantime will make sure the bases are covered in previews, listings and features by other writers. Like all magazines-and all arts organizations-we're facing a tighter budget, and must husband our resources carefully. But we are not abandoning the dance community or any other of the arts communities in New York

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Hmm. This could mean that she's backing down, but trying to save face by refusing to rehire Tobias. Or it could mean that she's trying to get people off her back by promising to look for "a new voice," a search that, theoretically,could go on indefinitely until people forget about the whole thing.

I'm very sorry for Tobias. First, she's cut loose as financial deadweight; then the story changes and she's getting dumped for a "new voice." Either way, Miller is making it clear that she's not getting her job back.

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I agree, dirac. I'd vote for the indefinite search for a new voice -- surely they'll all forget about this by spring, won't they?

I did speak with Tobi Tobias when this started and the first thing I asked her was, do you think they're replacing you. She had asked the same thing and was told no.

Replacing Tobias at this stage would make Miller seem either unbelievably petty -- bad bad writer for daring to go public with being fired! -- or fuel the rumors (which I personally do not believe, but which keep surfacing) that certain organizations put pressure on the magazine to get rid of Tobias because of her negative reviews.

Either way, everyone loses in this.

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In a fit of protest. I ripped out the crossword puzzle and sent the rest of the magazine back to Ms. Miller with a letter asking her where was the work that "best served" me was.

I doubt I'll get a response, but....

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Err, am I missing something, or are the answers #1 and #2 similar?

Ms Miller's answers really aren't consistent: first it was about "painful choices" and "limited resources", and then about "time for a change", "new voice" and "broadening their audience". What next: "I heard some voices in my sleep telling me to fire Tobi Tobias?" "some men in black with big guns told me to do so?" "In order to broaden our audience, we've decided to hire Britney Spears as a dance critic, and to publish photographs of naked dancers?" It sounds as if she considers the readers who complained as a bit stupid... (and the paragraph about "having to innovate" really made me quite angry).

It's a pity that there aren't other similar magazines willing to broaden the audience for their dance coverage by *hiring* Ms Tobias...

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Thanks, Estelle. I posted something that had been sent to me without checking it, and have changed the posts a bit now.

I like your suggestions for further responses!

If dance were anything else, another magazine *would* have hired Tobias instantly. But it's not, and it's not because the people who run publishing do not have dance on their radar screens. It's not important to them, and they assume it's not important to anyone else.

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Robert Gottlieb has written about the New York Magazine situation in the Observer. Someone sent me this link I haven't been able to access the site -- I get a connection refused message (5, 5:30 p.m. EST) but we may have better luck later.

For then:

Robert Gottlieb in the current NY Observer on the dismissal of Tobi Tobias

et al.

http://www.observer.com/pages/dance.asp

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Thanks for that, Rachel -- I still got a "connection refused" message. We can only hope that it's because thousands of angry dance fans are trying to click on Gottlieb's article! :)

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Have others -- besides Ari and Rachel, obviously -- been able to access this link? I have been steadfastly unable to using Netscape, but did get through using Internet Explorer.

I thought Gottlieb's piece was rather brave (and, of course, I agree with him). I think truth and justice do matter, and I'm glad Miller has been called, publicly, on the shifting sands of her response and explanation for this.

I'm very glad that Elizabeth Zimmer at the Voice has offered Tobias space, but it's not the same thing. It will be shared space, and her pieces will be not quite as visible and, more important, there will be no dance criticism in one of the major magazines which purports to cover the New York "scene." So from this week, any Big Apple Newcomer, or teen coming of age on the magazine stand, will not even have a glimmer that dance might interest him, or might be important.

I thought Gottlieb's take on this quite fine, especially this quote:

As for Ms. Tobias, she will undoubtedly find other places to write about dance. But the issue isn’t personal. Every art form needs educated and uncompromising criticism to keep itself honest. Eliminating a major voice from an important venue—either for budgetary reasons or to bring in someone trendier—is not merely a dance-world scandal, it’s a dark comment on the priorities of today’s journalism.

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It took two tries, but I got it (using AOL's browser). The article is interesting for both the Tobias comments and his take on both the Trocks and Cunningham.

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I can't find the thread where we were talking about this but look what I just saw at www.artsjournal.com:

BAD MOVES: New York Magazine

miscalculated when it fired dance critic Tobi

Tobias. But the magazine has been cutting

back on space for its other critics, and some

might worry other cutbacks are in the works.

"Eliminating a major voice from an important

venue—either for budgetary reasons or to

bring in someone trendier—is not merely a

dance-world scandal, it’s a dark comment on

the priorities of today’s journalism." New York

Observer [low down in the column] 08/21/02

(If you go to the above website, there is a link to the full article.)

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With all the woodging on Ms. Miller's part, I wonder what the REAL story is. I have always found that if a person changes their explanation nemerous times, the first explanation probably wasn't the whole truth or even part of the truth.

If ms. Miller didn't like the job Ms. Tobias was doing, she should have said that, and I would have still been disappointed in her decision, but would have at least respected her honesty. Now I can't respect her for anything, especially the handling of this entire debacle.

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