Saturday, April 21, 2007

AJC axes classical music critic post

ATLANTA, Georgia

The staff position of "classical music critic" has been eliminated at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, according to recent published reports by writers at Creative Loafing-Atlanta.

But the story hardly stops there. The AJC is losing a "who's who" of senior writers due to a restructuring of the daily newspaper with what some might easily call a "virtual hatchet."

Even as two of its editors were announced winners of Pulitzer Prizes for Journalism, editorial columnist Cynthia Tucker (for commentary) and managing editor Hank Klibanoff (who shared the prize for history), the AJC is losing some 40 senior senior staffers in an "early retirement buyout" (including the daily's only other extant Pulitzer winner, science writer Mike Toner). A number of specific "beats" have been eliminated, and it appears many remaining writers will be obliged to compete for remaining jobs in a "reapplication" process.

"Features" appears to have been one of the departments hit hardest, with elimination of both the "classical music critic" position (leaving two other staff music writers to compete against each other for the sole remaining "pop music" job) and the "visual arts critic" post, as well as two of its three film critic jobs (Eleanor Ringel Gillespie was one of the senior writers to accept "early retirement") to rely upon wire service reviews.

Although daily newspapers all around have experienced severely decreasing readership, my personal opinion is this the equivalent of the AJC dropping its pants and mooning Atlanta's arts community, particularly the classical music world.

The first I heard that something was going down specifically with reduced AJC coverage of classical music was, ominously, Friday, April 13, during intermission at an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra subscription concert. Later that weekend, when it was far less clear than now exactly what was transpiring, it became clear that Atlanta's classical musicians and their supporters are upset—those who knew about it, that is. Even now, I'm not even sure that what we do now know is entirely clear, as a "job reapplication process" for remaining AJC writers will not be over until June 1, according to Creative Loafing reporter Scott Freeman (see second link below).

My own best guess at this juncture is that the AJC staff posts on the chopping block will continue to exist until the "reapplication" process is over, although I have no tangible confirmation of that at this time. ■

Please read more about this in two published sources:

Fear and loathing at the AJC
by Scott Freeman [Creative Loafing's "Fresh Loaf" blog, April 13, 2007]
Newsroom musical chairs at the AJC
by Scott Henry [Creative Loafing, online/print editions, April 18/19, 2007]

—Mark Gresham, composer/music journalist 21 Apr 2007