IBJ covers the Star's lack of coverage

Dateline: Tue 16 Dec 2008

The Indianapolis Business Journal published a story Saturday about the extensive cutbacks in arts coverage at the Indianapolis Star. Excerpts are included here, but first, the latest rumors:

Some readers tell me the Star's once-premiere features sections will continue to decline. The word is circulating that features is being drastically realigned, and one potential cutback is to entirely eliminate features sections on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Can it be true? Would the comics section and other odds and ends simply move to the back of the bus in Metro, after the obits? Would features reporters instead be expected to produce exclusively Page 1 and metro/biz stories?

One trend you can count on: indy.com, the Star's online and weekly print version of feature news, will be management's justification for drastically altering the way soft news is covered. The Star's exec editor Dennis Ryerson says as much in this IBJ article written by Kathleen McLaughlin. Here are some highlights:

"Critic cutback panned

Arts groups say reviews, even bad ones, help ticket sales

Sat. December 13 - 2008 \t

Kathleen McLaughlin

IBJ staff

"As much as people in the arts wince at a critic's stinging words, there is one thing they dread more than an unfavorable review: no attention at all.

"The Indianapolis Star, the state's largest daily newspaper, has scaled back its roster of critics in recent years, a reduction in coverage that put the onus on local arts promoters to get the word out through other channels, such as blogs.

"'You reach people by the handful, not by the hundred,' said Megan McKinney, former public relations manager for the Indiana Repertory Theatre. 'It can be really labor-intensive.'

"After a round of layoffs at The Star this month, promoters worry that coverage will become even more sparse. The ax that fell on the Star, and newsrooms throughout parent Gannett Co. Inc., caught the paper's lone reviewer for theater, dance and classical music, Whitney Smith. A total of 20 newsroom jobs disappeared.

"'We were shocked by the Star's announcement,' said Jessica DiSanto, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra....

"In a column published in The Star Dec.7, Ryerson said arts coverage would continue. Jay Harvey, a former jazz critic who has been working on the copy desk for several years, will take over for Smith.

"'We used to have more people covering City Hall than we do now," Ryerson said. 'It's just the nature of the business. Resources have declined.'

"Yet Ryerson said he couldn't bear to see arts coverage decline further.

"Personally, the arts are important to me," he said. "We agonize over these decisions. That's why we just immediately asked Jay if he'd be willing to pick up where Whitney left off."

"Ryerson said staff members at The Star's Indy.com want to pitch in on arts coverage.

"'This is an opportunity for us now to kind of rethink some things," he said. "We want to do more than just what's happening onstage.'"

Hah? Not sure that last comment makes any sense, but that's business as usual at the Star...

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