Theater Criticism Doesn't Have a Voice

By Pollack, Joe | St. Louis Journalism Review, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Theater Criticism Doesn't Have a Voice


Pollack, Joe, St. Louis Journalism Review


St. Louis' smaller theater groups, both amateur and semi-professional, have seen local coverage dwindle in the past few years, and they have complained in letters to editors and on various Web sites about both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Riverfront Times in terms of quality and quantity of coverage.

But if what happened recently at the Village Voice is an indication of what will occur at its sister paper, the Riverfront Times, the dwindling has only just begun.

The RFT is owned by Village Voice Media, which was New Times Media until last October, when New Times bought the long-established New York weekly, the Village Voice, and, in effect, took the spouse's corporate name as its own.

A couple of weeks ago, the Voice fired eight senior editors and writers, including Robert Christgau, pop music critic and a major national name. Other layoffs included theater editor Jorge Morales and dance editor Elizabeth Zimmer, along with Ed Park, editor in charge of the book section, and Minh Uong, art director.

Since the merger of the Voice into Phoenix-based Village Voice Media (nee New Times Media), the newspaper has had four editors. Don Forst resigned last December, Doug Simmons was fired in March, Erik Wemple, hired from the Washington City Paper, stayed only two weeks.

David Blum is the new editor hired in August, he took over in September and was not in place when the firings came down. He told The New York Times that "it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to weigh in on these decision, before I even took over the job."

Michael Feingold apparently remains as the lead drama critic.

Village Voice Media released a statement that the layoffs were made "to reconfigure the editorial department to place an emphasis on writers as opposed to editors," a comment that will please many writers but do little to help coverage.

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