Dark day for Indy arts media

December 4, 2008
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It's a sad day for Indianapolis media and for the arts as massive layoffs gut the Indianapolis Star.

Whitney Smith: gone.

Chris Lloyd: gone.

Susan Guyett: gone.

Abe Aamidor: gone. 

My thoughts and best wishes go out to these and other talented former Star writers, editors and designers.

More details here and here. Look for more in today's IBJ Daily.

Your thoughts?
  • Well, that is just tragic. But it's not surprising. I think we all know that the world of newspapers is suffering seriously.

    OK, Lou - More pressure for you! Looks like you'll be a lone voice in the world of local print media critics.

    Please IBJ! Keep Lou around!!
  • Well, crap.

    ('Sorry: I can't be any more articulate than that right now. This just really sucks.)

    Hope Baugh
  • IBJ story is now posted here:

  • I will miss much of this, but I will say that talk of the town was not something I read--reading who sits where at which restaurant, and having an annual reminder of the birthdays of people I don't really know wasn't all that special. I'd much rather have more space dedicated to theater reviews and background information. But Lou--you are the tops in this category anyway, and I always check with you first.
  • It won't be that much longer before the Indy Star's ongoing de-evolution results in a newspaper whose sole content consists of reprinted Gannett articles, AP news feeds and Bob Kravitz columns.
  • My heart breaks for them. The arts always seems to be expendable, doesn't it? How very unfortunate for the Star, its readers, and the area arts community.
  • I can certainly understand the challenge that all newspapers face as their readership declines. However, as a former subscriber, the Star has declined noticably since Gannett took it over, both in terms of volume and local coverage. I want my local paper to provide a local perspective. I can (and do) read wire service service stories eleswhere. Very little about the Star is local; I'm not sure how getting rid of local writers will improve that. The Star gives me very little reason to read it anymore; perhaps if their focus was on the quality of the publication rather than cutting costs I'd read it more often.

    Also, I've heard from people who work at the Star that it is not an unprofitable operation but rather the Star's profits are simply not large enough for Gannett's corporate management.
  • Things haven't been the same in the visual arts coverage since Skip Berry left... What a sad day for all. Wishing you all well and here's to something bigger and better.
  • Many thanks to longtime Star favorites, including Susan Guyett and Abe Aamidor (to mention just two). You're both beloved pros who will be sadly missed.

    And, what's to become of arts coverage? Isn't it ironic that a business publication may have more robust coverage of the arts and entertainment?

    As Cicero said, O tempore--o mores!
  • It is now up to NUVO and IBJ to increase their arts coverage to make up for what the Star has decided is not important to this community. I hope the Star realizes its mistake, observes declining readership because of the decision, and at least institutes arts coverage from freelance writers.
  • Welcome to the ongoing consolidation of middle-market newspapers by Gannett. In five years' time we'll be reading USA Today: Indianapolis Edition. (Well, I won't be.) It's already that in all but name anyway. The local TV stations all have better local news Web sites than the Star already, and for national and international coverage, you can read AP news feeds anywhere.

    Meanwhile, it's down to IBJ and NUVO to tell me what's going on in the arts. At least they're still managed by folks who give a rat's hindquarters about their own city.
  • Well, there is no room for care or quality in a market as volital as what we have now. When profits are on the line, it is the bottom dollar that matters, not care or quality.

    Put a little more time in your articles (like IBJ has) and it won't come to Layoffs and Firings to this extent. (for the most part)
  • No surprise here as every newpaper in the country is struggling to reinvent themselves in response to the differing ways people gain access to news. Libraries are having similar challenges. I would think that other arts and news focused entities who are already electronically savy would be positioned to respond to this need reasonably quickly. Education has already cut many arts programs to focus limited resources on other priorities (therein lies the problem when we no longer recognize how essential the arts are to learning).
  • It seems to me the sad part of the story is the end of publication of two local neighborhood newspapers - the Spotlight and the Eastside Herald - after Gannett swallowed them. That concerns me more than losing a society column and arts writers. Those were free publications that folks on the Southside and Eastside probably read more regularly and thoroughly than the Star. I bet many small businesses relied on them for affordable advertising too.
  • Thank you, Abe Aamidor, for years of wonderful writing.
  • And thank you, Whitney Smith, for not only about writing about the arts but also for taking the time to encourage small theatre companies to be more effective in their media interactions and other marketing efforts.

    And, for befriending me, a would-be theatre writer.

    I am confident that you will land on your feet, but Indianapolis will be the poorer for not being able to read your articles.

    Hope Baugh
  • Brian said we'll be reading a local version of USA Today in 5 years. That's because it will happen much sooner. Ever since the Star decreased content and size I've been waiting for the local USA Today. I wouldn't be surprised if it is the normal USA Today with a 4 page wrapper for local news (that would be 1 sheet of paper). of course we'll get all this for more than we're paying now...
  • Regarding a local USA Today -- you do realize that USA Today is another Gannett publication, just like the Star? Can't say I hold out much hope for it to be any better.
  • Read Christopher Lloyd's words over at http://ruthholladay.com/.

    Having been in that situation, I know what a brutal, conflicted time it is. To find the words--the right words--at a time like that is yet another testament to the quality of writer being lost at the Star.

  • Patricia, that was precisely my point. Squeezing all the interesting local content out of a regional paper, and even killing the subsidiaries that cover what's going on in the doughnut counties, leaves us with something that might as well just be USA Today. Personally, if I want to read something with lots of pictures that's written at a fifth-grade level, I'll pick up My Weekly Reader.
  • I cried and cried and CRIED at the Symphony's Yuletide Celebration last night, not only because it was beautiful but because I knew I wouldn't get to read Whitney Smith's take on it. I was crying even more selfishly because I knew I wouldn't run into him there at press preview night.

    Shoot, I'm crying now as I write this on a break at my day job.

    I'm proud to be a blogger, but bloggers aren't enough, any more than adjunct faculty are enough to make an excellent university program, nor any more than Google is enough to make a public library.

    (By the way, I know this is a tangent, but it's the PUBLIC in public libraries that make them worth keeping, not the books part, or even the Internet access. It's the fact that public libraries make Internet access and other sources of information and stories available to everyone in a democratic society.)

    More later, probably. My meeting is about to reconvene.

    Hope Baugh
  • The quality of the Star has significantly decreased since the acquisition by Gannett. All print newspapers are having difficulty and the Gannett papers are certainly no exception. The Star has had little to offer lately other than stale news (which was reported online at least one day earlier) and advertisements. The new batch of lay-offs will only serve to decrease its minimal value further.
  • Also (quickly again because I'm just on another break)...

    I was crying earlier because I had read the elegant post by Chris Lloyd on Ruth Holladay's blog and I agree with Lou that it's a shame to be losing Lloyd's skill as a writer.

    Yes, newspapers have to reinvent themselves, but it's not the paper that's the important part of a newspaper, it's the news.

    Or, to borrow a passion keyword from blogspeak: it's not the online format, it's the CONTENT.

    Gannett seems to be cutting the only things that will keep them in business for the long run: their professional content creators. I understand about greed and wanting a larger profit margin. I don't think it's the way to live one's life, necessarily, but I get it. So...isn't it bizarre that Gannet is making decisions that seem guaranteed to put itself out of business?

    Or am I naive in thinking that they even want to be in the news business?

    It is their darn website that is actually holding them back. Brian mentioned how long it takes to load. I stopped trying to use indy.com a long time ago because I could never find Whitney Smith's reviews, or any other theatre reviews for that matter. I got so that I was only reading his stuff via the links that other theater people pointed me to. All I could find on my own on that site was calendar info and hundreds (thousands!) of photos of drunken tattooed people with their arms around each other.

    Now I'm sorry that I didn't try harder to find and read every single review and the other real articles - and the ads accompanying them - because Gannett probably based its firing decisions on the lack of click-throughs to those.

    But I know I couldn't have been the only one who got frustrated with that website. The real problem was not my lack of searching skills but the fact that Gannett didn't know (and apparently still doesn't know) how to make the transition from local newsPAPER to online local NEWSpaper.

    And now all of those creators, and worse, all of Indianapolis, has to suffer because of Gannett's bad decisions.


    Back to my meeting...

    Hope Baugh
  • The conversation continues here:

  • What I'm about to share just might be the best news of all yet to come. Although, it is sad that the star had to let go for all involved..the arts, community, writers, readers. So here is the exciting news, I'm the publisher for the new Indy Arts Magazine. So, if the star let them go.....please send them my way! Feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions or comments. Thanks!

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