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Critical questions follow reviewer's departure from Indy Star

May 17, 2013

Will the Indianapolis Star continue to offer reviews of classical music, theater and dance?

That’s the question arts professionals around the city are wondering in the wake of the resignation of Jay Harvey, who covered classical music, theater and other arts for the newspaper and online. His last day of work at the Star is Friday.

Harvey, 67, has filled a number of roles since joining the paper in 1986. At the time, both the Star and the city's evening paper, The Indianapolis News, had multiple critics assigned to theater, film, music and dance. Harvey initially covered classical music and served as back-up for theater. He also spent more than a decade working on the Star copy desk and writing occasional jazz reviews.

Since 2008, he has been the primary critic covering all of the performing arts except pop music. At peak, he was reviewing three to four events per week.

But as the Star put greater emphyasis in developing its online presence, reviews were marginalized, Harvey said.

“They count [online] page views, and reviews didn’t seem to come up high," he said. "My whole idea, in four decades of work, was that you write what’s interesting. But now you can’t just say, ‘This person is interesting.’ You really have to say, ‘Will our readers care?’”

“I want to emphasize, though, that I’m not bitter toward the Star,” he added. “This whole thing has to do with following a business model that they think is sustainable. More power to them.”

Harvey will continue to cover classical music and other arts on his personal blog, jayharveyupstage.blogspot.com.

So what’s next for the Star’s cultural coverage?

“We haven’t heard anything formally,” said Jessica Di Santo, director of communications for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Harvey reviewed nearly all of the ISO's classical concerts during his recent tenure.

“The Star did reach out and say it is still committed to the performing arts. But they didn’t say anything about critical coverage,” Di Santo said.

Asked if performing arts reviews would continue in the Star, Jeff Taylor, editor and vice president/news, offered a statement via e-mail: “The only comment I have is that the Star will continue its longstanding commitment to coverage of the arts in Central Indiana. We value the important role that the arts play in making Indianapolis a vibrant place to live.”

Taylor declined to comment on whether or not Harvey would be replaced, or if fine arts reviews would continue.

Performing arts groups see great value in reviews, positive or negative.

“Reviews can give audiences insights they missed and sometimes persuade new people to check out a specific show or group," said Paul Hansen, marketing director for Dance Kaleidoscope. "Reviews are also used by not-for-profits to help get grants and touring opportunities.”

“As things change at the Star,” Hansen added, “we're all hopeful that it will continue covering the arts in new and exciting ways. 

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