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NY Magazine - firing Tobi Tobias


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#31 Farrell Fan

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Posted 02 August 2002 - 03:33 AM

I got the same response from Caroline Miller, and to make matters worse, my name was misspelled.

#32 Alexandra

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Posted 05 August 2002 - 08:19 AM

The New York magazine response has changed slightly (this is what those who email NYMag are now getting as a response)

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.

#33 Alexandra

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Posted 05 August 2002 - 09:46 AM

In the LATimes article of August 2, Ms. Miller (editor of NY Magazine) was quoted as saying "And it's no surprise to anyone that the audience for dance has diminished."

I haven't been able to find anything to support this. DanceUSA, which keeps the numbers on dance in this country, has the following information on its website in the "Snap Facts" section (www.danceusa.org)

This is a quote from the web site:

Dance in America: Snapfacts 2000



Professional dance companies in America have a direct economic impact of over $350 million.

A study by the NEA in 1997 estimated that 35.6 million people attend dance performances.*
* This figure may include pre-professional performances and recitals.

There are about 675 professional dance companies in the USA.

Of these, 15 have budgets in excess of $5 million.
An estimated 55 to 65 have budgets between $1 million and $5 million.
About 12 to 14 of these are modern companies; the rest are ballet.
New York City has more dance companies -- slightly over 200 -- than any other metropolis.
But this number includes only 13 of the 70 - 80 companies with budgets over $1 million.

Dance is a relatively young "industry" in America.

In 1965, the NEA identified 37 professional dance companies in America.
Only 72 companies claim founding dates earlier than 1970.
The oldest companies are the Metropolitan Opera Ballet (1895),
the Martha Graham Company (1926), the Atlanta Ballet (1929),
and the San Francisco Ballet (1933).


[emphasis added by A.T.; though these figures are from September 2000, and the NEA survey was from 1997, there has not been a major survey since that date, as far as I know. - A.T.]

#34 Calliope

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Posted 05 August 2002 - 09:57 AM

recitals and pre-professional.
does that count your 4 year olds "recital"?

I wonder what Ms. Miller's context of the audience diminishing is?
Just today Broadway announced the potential closing of 4 new shows, b/c of post-Sept 11th audiences looking for bargains and a decline of advance sales.
Somehow I doubt they'll cancel the theater column.

I don't think she gets the difference between press and a review.

#35 Alexandra

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Posted 05 August 2002 - 10:01 AM

I agree with your last statement, Calliope (about not getting the difference between press and review). But I think Miller's latest response shows where the thinking comes from -- it has nothing to do with economic difficulties and everything to do with the perception that dance doesn't matter and there aren't enough readers who care about dance.

On your question about recitals, apparently it is extremely difficult to determine statistically what's professional and what is not in the dance field: there's no agreed upon definition. There are a lot of professionals who work for little or no money -- in peforming, this is especially true, of course, in modern dance. Choreogrpahes may not receive fees for their work, etc. etc. etc.

But from an editor's point of view, I'd be just as happy to have as a reader the parents of a four-year-old whose school has a dance recital as I would someone who only attends performances by the major companies, or the minor ones -- or never goes at all, but just dances. Who cares? As long as they're interested in dance.

#36 dirac

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Posted 05 August 2002 - 11:07 AM

It doesn't look from the revised message that Miller is backing down in any crucial respect. Interesting that her observation to the effect that no one's that interested in dance any more is not reiterated in the e-mail.

I don't think it's necessarily wrong for her to say that, as long as she has evidence to back it up. If there is such evidence, I wish she'd produce it.


However, even if it's true that interest in dance is diminishing, it seems to me that fact in itself would not warrant elimination of dance reviews. There are things that reputable papers and magazines believe they have to cover, even if they're not the items that draw the most eyeballs.

#37 Alexandra

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Posted 06 August 2002 - 08:24 AM

Flash! Another new form response from Caroline Miller at New York Magazine:

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.

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

comment by A.T.:

So cutting reviews is a "new approach?" Surely that's been tried :) And if the links and previews are being written by writers already on staff -- and already doing the links and previews -- then how is that "developing new voices"? I can't resist this dig, that Tobias's voice was already quite developed when she went to NYMag, and there has been no indication that this move was to replace her -- quite the opposite. Eliminating Tobias was because they were eliminating dance reviews.

#38 Dale

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Posted 06 August 2002 - 08:41 AM

I don't have any proof of this, but I can venture to guess that New York Magazine is feeling the heat from Time Out New York, which does listings much better than New York Mag and has pretty much taken over for Cue (the listing section of NYM). TONY does reviews of films, theater, and art, but not dance. It is possible that the people at NYM are thinking, well it works for TONY and that's how we'll snag their readers. In addition, I've seen more theme issues of NYM, like TONY. Well, I think that's way off. As I told them in a letter, New York magazine should value and further develop what makes them unique to readers -- their features on the city, columns and critics.

#39 justafan

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Posted 06 August 2002 - 12:13 PM

Time Out New York does fairly frequent features about ballet and dance. I recollect a recent interview with Helene Alexopoulos on her retirement, some backstage gossip about what it is like to dance in NYCB's Nutcracker, and other things like that. I don't subscribe, so I can't check, but I think it also gets some small amount of advertising from NYCB and possibly ABT.

And I think that's the point. I don't think there is any reason to doubt that the decision was made based on economics. This week's issue was very sparse in terms of ads -- a handful of display ads, an education advertorial supplement, and the classifieds and personals in the back.

Dance companies -- even ABT and NYCB -- don't do much advertising. When times are tough, the reality is that a magazine editor must make cuts in content areas that won't hurt readership OR the bottom line. In my letter, I noted that the world wouldn't miss New York magazine's film criticism -- there are plenty of outlets for movie reviews. But cutting back on film coverage could adversely impact advertising revenue. Among the meager advertising in this week's issue was an for the new Clint Eastwood movie.

Even though advertising is a reality, it is still sad that they cut the column. Although I have no idea of the costs involved, New York certainly wasn't running the column very often.

#40 Jack Reed

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Posted 06 August 2002 - 02:53 PM

Alexandra, FWIW, my favorite magazine and newspaper shop in D.C., One Stop, 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, (202) 872-1577, says they carry Time Out New York and currrently have the lst-8th August issue. They're open until 9 tonight, if you're in a hurry. (I thought I'd seen it there; leave it to the tourists to tell the locals where things are, eh? Just kidding, of course.)

#41 Calliope

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Posted 07 August 2002 - 08:18 AM

Time Out New York came out today.

An interview with Tobi Tobias.

Briefly;

she talked about she got into writing about dance. She met someone at a New Year's party who was an alumni of her school and asked her to write a piece on a fellow alum, turned out to be Twyla Tharp.

Seems the decision by Caroline Miller was "put off" by 3 months to either scale back considerably or eliminate the dance column (obviously they waited until after the Kirov coverage)

There's been a lot of support from people.
ANd her favorite moments,
Gillian Murphy doing Swan Lake with a child screaming. Mark Morri's L'ALLERGRO
and the first time she saw a Balanchine ballet, Swan Lake with Diana Adams. "she came out to the stage and took this arabeque, and as far as I'm concerned, I was hooked forever."

Gia Kourlas opening states that locally and internationally the dance world is in an uproar and that "while the news might reveal as much abou the effects of a distressed economy as it does about the relevance of the art form within popular culture, the sad irony-that a magazine named after the very city where contemporary dance came to life would have no space for dance criticism- is not lost on Tobias and her peers".

#42 AmandaNYC

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Posted 07 August 2002 - 09:35 AM

Thanks, Calliope. I look forward to reading the article tonight, should my issue arrive on time.

In my letter to Ms. Miller, in addition to talking about NY as the center of dance and the need for continued critical coverage, I did bring up the issue of not always agreeing with Tobias' criticism. I stressed that as an additional reason I was so upset to lose her column. I talked about how I had learned a great deal from reading her reviews because she often saw things differently, offering me a different viewpoint, experience, and background... And, b/c she is such a strong writer, unlike those at another periodical, where the reviews are poorly written and barely critical (I cited the paper by name in the letter).

-amanda

#43 Patricia

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Posted 12 August 2002 - 11:29 AM

Just so we know what we're up against...the latest issue has a gossipy feature on Heather Mills, the new Mrs. Paul McCartney.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

#44 Alexandra

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Posted 12 August 2002 - 11:34 AM

Thanks for that tidbit, Patricia. I'm sure many more people ARE interested in Heather McC than Mark Morris or the Diamond Project, just as there are more people who buy McCartney's CD's than Beethoven's. But music is still covered!

#45 Alexandra

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Posted 12 August 2002 - 11:36 AM

I just received an email forwarded to me from someone who's on the Dance/USA mailing list, that included the following paragraphs:

As you may have heard, New York Magazine announced last week that it fired its dance critic, Tobi Tobias, and will no longer review dance. Dance/NYC has organized a national letter-writing campaign to the magazine protesting this most ill-considered move.  New York Magazine has a very large  nationwide subscription base, so this is an issue affecting not just New York City, but cultural coverage and criticism across the country, sending an unfortunate message about the value of dance criticism to periodicals and newspapers everywhere.  

In addition to individuals and dance organizations in New York City, those taking part in the campaign thus far are: The Field; Dance Theater Workshop; Alliance of Resident Theaters/NY (theater); Theater Communications Group (theater-national);  The Arts & Business Council; the New York Coalition for the Arts; New York Foundation for the Arts; New England Foundation for the Arts; Career Transitions for Dancers; IATSE (stagehands); AGMA; and SSDC (Directors & Choreographers), among others.



So if you hear that this is an issue of interest to only a handful of people, that's a good list to cite :)


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