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NY Magazine - firing Tobi Tobias


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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.



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


Thank you.

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Here's my letter - I urge other people to write. One less voice, one less venue for coverage is a damaging thing.

Dear Ms. Miller:

I'm very sad to hear of your magazine's decision to discontinue dance coverage by Tobi Tobias.  Her reviews were the reason I read the magazine and visited the website; I have much less reason to do either without them.  Not only was her writing incisive but the coverage of an important part of New York's cultural life stated an important truth: New Yorkers don't just watch TV, they go to the theater, the opera and dance performances.  It's sad to think that you've decided that not enough people are interested to justify coverage.  Count me as one reader for whom that was the main reason I read New York Magazine with pleasure.

I hope you will reconsider this sad, and I think misguided, decision.

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I wrote too and asked how they can call themselves "New York" magazine without covering one of the cornerstones of NY culture. Many consider NY to be the dance capital of the world, yet they'll now never read about it in your magazine.

It is a disservice to the population of readers who have been influenced to go to a performance after reading one of Tobi Tobias' reviews.

and I can't remember what else I wrote b/c it was early this morning.

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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.

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I e-mailed my letter to NEW YORK. I won't reprint it, but I questioned the validity of such a decision, being that NYC is a major center for ALL kinds of dance. Could it be the decision to cut the column was possibly due to pressure from NYCB? Martins remains popular with his monied, powerful patrons.

TIME OUT NEW YORK reviews everything from restaurants to television...but not dance.

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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 :)

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Ok, this is really depressing me. NEW YORK is decreasing its dance coverage? Oh what has this world come to? Our dance coverage here in San Diego is so pitiful and I have been holding out hope that it will improve but if New York doesn't see the need for dance coverage, who will? :(

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Thanks for the news - albeit bad news. I've sent my email. Maybe if they see enough of an uprising, they'll realize they have a substantial chunk of readers that they'll lose. Here's hoping!

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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 :) 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.

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Here's my two-cents worth:

I have read with tremendous sadness and astonishment of New York Magazine's apparent decision to drop dance coverage. For years, in giving Tobi Tobias a voice, New York Magazine has not just chronicled the development of an art form which has, more than any other, built its greatest achievements here in New York City, but has also been a discerning and important arbiter of those achievements.

It has never been more important than now to celebrate, cherish and, yes, husband our city's great cultural bounty, as Tobias has done so well, for so long. Shall the works of George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor and Mark Morris (or the hundreds of less well-known dance artists whom Tobias and your magazine gave acknowledgment and legitimacy) exist no more for the readers of New York Magazine?

In relieving yourself of Tobias, and dance as a whole, you are doubtless saving yourself a few dollars, but it's not without a cost, both to your readers and to the cultural life of the city whose name you have so proudly (but with a waning legitimacy) claimed for your own. You've also relieved yourself of at least one reader.

I devoutly hope that New York Magazine will reconsider this unfortunate decision.


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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.

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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.......

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Patricia -

I have a feeling NYCB had nothing to do with it - good reviews or bad, it was press, and now, this is one more place in which NYCB will not get covered at all. Controversy or even bad press is far better for New York City Ballet than irrelevance.

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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

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I got the same exact letter.

I guess they cut costs back so much, they can't afford to address people individually.

"work that best serves the reader"

for me it's the crossword and the dance reviews.

Previews aren't enough "coverage" of dance. That's like printing the movie timetable.

I'm pretty much annoyed and will in these difficult times, I think I'll save the money on a subscription and donate it to a company. I'll check their website and if I decide there's an article worth reading, I'll buy it.

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While I'm not inclined to say anything favorable about New York right now, their website is free, and you can look up archived material -- some going back several years -- without charge. It's quite nice, as opposed to some other sites where you have to choke up three or four dollars for an article that turns out to be exactly what you didn't need.

I hope something can be done, but it doesn't look good, does it?

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I received an 'answer' to my e-mailed letter:

Thanks for your letter. It's true that we are discontinuing Tobi's reviews,

but it isn't the case that we're abandoning dance, or our commitment to

serious culture in New York. 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 we have valued Tobi's contribution to

the magazine, we believe that, for the time being, the best way to provide

ongoing coverage of dance is in other parts of the magazine.

We will continue to cover dance in previews, listings and features,

including the kinds of stories you mention. In fact we have a feature on

Mark Morris coming up later in the fall. We'll do our best to keep readers

informed of what's going on in dance, and give the dance community the

attention it deserves.

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


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 :)

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