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Arts leaders on Globe crisis

Posted by Geoff Edgers  April 4, 2009 11:40 PM

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I spoke to the leaders of several arts institutions about the potential closure of the Boston Globe. Here is some of what each had to say.

Jill Medvedow, the director of the Institute of Contemporary Art.

When the ICA opened its new building in 2006, the Globe published a special, stand-alone section focused on the event.

“From the perspective of the arts, the Globe is critical for several reasons. For one thing, other media follow the Globe. It is commonly, I will hear, NPR doing a story that they have picked up from the globe or blogs following what the Globe has written."

“The average demographic for theaters, symphonies and museums is people who read newspapers. They rely on the Globe for not only what’s going on but they are looking for the critical perceptive of the reporters and critics.”

“The Times has already dismantled a lot of the Globe. It’s evident the paper has worked very hard to try to work within this dismantled infrastructure. But I would be so sad to live in a city without a paper of record.

“When the new ICA opened in 2006, the Globe and the attention and the information it gave to a city, most of whom had not even heard of the ICA, helped create a phenomena in Boston that had not been seen for a century and has not been seen since. We became a new icon on the waterfront. An icon is more than architecture. It’s all the publicity and attention and buzz and analysis.”

Museum of Fine Arts Director Malcolm Rogers:

He has not always agreed with Globe coverage of the MFA and still smarts from the paper reported on the museum’s 1999 reorganization. But he appreciates the way the Globe’s coverage creates a discussion about the arts.

“From our point of view, the Globe is what our visitors read. It’d be like the end of the Mass Turnpike if you had to travel across the state. It’s the prime newsprint, cultural organ of New England.”

“I don’t want to imagine it. But I can imagine any city these days without its newspapers. What worries me is that the change may be unstoppable.”

“To my point of view, the world I deal with is still the world of newspapers. That’s where people find out about us.”


Anne Hawley, director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum:


"It’s unthinkable. The Globe is the center of the whole communications structure in the city. People say, oh, you can go online. Well, there’s no jrounalistic standard there. It’s not the way civilization should be organized. It’s very disturbing to me.”

"It’s what every organization is dealing with now. How do you deal not only with the changing culture and times? But how do you negotiate through this dreadful economic situation. But I would think the Globe and the Times could be creative about coming up with the solution here."

Boston Symphony Orchestra Managing Director Mark Volpe:

“What would concern me is the principal function of newsgathering. I’m a big morning edition fan. And the local component of that basically, they read your headlines. I think that goes not to just the noncommercial dial but the commercial dial.”

“In this ever more complicated world where there’s all this new media, cutting through the noise is much more of a challenge. One of the functions the Globe had editorially is to decide what’s worthy of everyone’s attention. And it’s not always the front page. It could be a review. The fact the globe covers you solidifies the relevance of what you’re doing.”

Volpe discussed the local ownership issue.

“The challenge in this. At the Symphony, the guys who really are the fiduciary guys here are local guys. So the people that ultimately have the responsibility here not only have a financial interest but they have an emotional investment. At the Globe, you’ve got people who are making these decisions that have a financial stake in Boston but it’s not clear beyond the financial stake what their stake in Boston is.”

Volpe said that the Globe was instrumental in covering the transition from former music director Seiji Ozawa, who left in 2002, to current music director James Levine.

“The Globe’s coverage of Seiji’s departure and levine’s arrival certainly influenced the broader community and certainly, Seiji’s last year, I don’t think we’ll have those numbers again. I think we sold every ticket. That was particularly fueled by the Globe’s focus on one of those threshold moments in the Boston Symphony.”

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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..
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