The departure this spring of Michael Feingold came right after Backstage magazine chopped its reviews section and just before the AP announced it would no longer cover Off-Broadway.* But the former Village Voice theater critic writes in an essay for theatermania.com that he understands the motivation for these moves. And that his piece today is not a personal rant.
In the hit-tastic world of digital media, theater reviews don’t draw the clicks. So, freelancers are put in place of former full-timers, and able hands borrowed as necessary from other departments:
At my termination meeting, the Voice’s editorial director told me, in a compassionate tone, that management now felt having a full-time theater critic on staff was a “luxury” the paper could do without.
I found it ironic (albeit slightly flattering) to be classed as a luxury, by an executive whose salary was probably triple mine; that she considered a full-time theater critic not a necessity for a New York media outlet struck me as genuinely dismaying.
Feingold ties in the colorful beginnings of 1940s-50s Broadway columnist Danton Walker and drops one of several great vocabulary words – “tripartite” – to frame his concerns about the theater review biz moving forward. Part II of Feingold’s essay “The Critic, the Worker, and The Business Model” will publish on theatermania.com next Friday.
*Clarification (August 16)
A spokesperson for AP has let us know the assertion that AP no longer covers Off-Broadway (transposed from Feingold’s original essay) is incorrect:
In a statement, AP managing editor Lou Ferrara confirmed the end of those reviews, but says AP will “instead put our focus on news stories that emanate from those arts and may be of wider interest.”
Previously on FishbowlNY:
Village Voice Fires Michael Musto, Robert Sietsema and Michael Feingold