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The Critics: firing Tobi Tobias


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Guest Manhattnik

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.

 

Sincerely,

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Guest Manhattnik

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.

 

Sincerely,

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Farrell Fan

This was a truly shocking decision. The ONLY reason I ever looked at New York was to read Tobi Tobias's dance reviews. I wrote and told them so and asked them to reconsider.

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Guest cargill

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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Guest Leigh Witchel

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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Guest atm711

I subscribe to 'New York Magazine' for two reasons:

 

l. I am hooked on their puzzle.

 

2. Tobi Tobias, my favorite NYC critic.

 

I , too, shall e-mail the Magazine.

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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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Guest Calliope

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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Guest Patricia

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.

 

http://www.danceinsider.com/f2002/f0802_1.html

 

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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Here's the item from the LA Times. It's short enough to reprint in its entirety.

 

New York Magazine Drops Dance Column

 

Tobi Tobias, dance writer at New York magazine for the past 22 years, got a call from editor in chief Caroline Miller Tuesday night advising her that her column was being phased out.

 

It's not that she's being replaced by "someone cuter," the columnist said Thursday. She's just the latest victim of economics, in which the arts--and dance, in particular--are increasingly seen as expendable.

 

"New York City is a mecca for dance--and there are so few slots where dance is being covered in a steady and serious way," Tobias said. "Companies and artists--not just the people who report on them--are trying to find and retain an audience. Dance is seen as the 'orphan' art since its appeal is narrower than the others. Still, it needs to have its place."

 

Tobias has received a couple of dozen phone calls and nearly 100 e-mails since word got out. But the decision, it seems, is final.

 

"While we value Tobi's contribution, I decided not to renew her contract," Miller said. "But we're not abandoning dance. At least for the time being, we'll cover it through listings, features and reviews written by other staff people. In these difficult times, every publication in America has to make painful decisions about how to use limited resources in a way that best serves the readers. And it's no surprise to anyone that the audience for dance has diminished."

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