Thursday, September 28, 2006

CS Philharmonic Reviews - Online Only

Beginning this weekend, my reviews of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic will be posted online only. They will no longer be included in the print edition.

In one obvious respect, this is bad: People will not see a review as they thumb through their newspaper, though there will be a tease to the review on the TV page. And since the philharmonic audience tends to be older, and older people are less likely to have Internet access, it means some people who wanted to read the review won’t be able to.

But in a couple of less obvious respects, it’s good. Since the philharmonic was founded three seasons ago, I’ve basically been reviewing dress rehearsals. This is because the Saturday night deadline is even earlier than the Friday night deadline that caused me and the night desk so much grief in the days of the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra. The workaround was to write the review from the dress rehearsal and then, if necessary, tweak it after the concert. With more time to write — the new deadline will be around midnight, compared with the previous 10:30 — I will be able to review the actual concerts. This will be much more meaningful for readers.

I’ll also no longer be limited to whatever space was available in the Sunday Metro section, so there will be a chance to go into more depth than was previously possible. (Not much more, unfortunately, because midnight is still midnight.)

I wasn’t part of the process that led to this decision. The reasons I was given are that people who read reviews are looking for them, so they’ll be able to find them online, and that more people will see the tease on the TV page than saw the reviews in the Metro section anyway.

If you hate the new policy, complain to the Gazette. (Of course, if you hate the new policy, you won’t be reading this blog.) I’m happy to give it a try.

The first of the new-format reviews will be Saturday’s performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, in which the philharmonic will be joined by the Colorado Springs Chorale and four vocal soloists. If ever a piece deserved more space for a review, this is it.


Blogger atomicelroy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:42 PM  
Blogger atomicelroy said...

This move is really DUMB! Does anyone in authority at the Gazette realize that by removing cultural content they are limiting their readership? Don't they want to sell more newspapers?
Symphony patrons are what's left of the old school cultural heritage of this country, they read newspapers and magazines they BUY CDs ( not download them). To me they are the demographic that will read the newspaper and patronize the advertisers.
This does not make any sense to me. Is someone "upstairs" at the Gazette ticked off at the Philharmonic?
Any one from the Gazette editorial department have a response?

12:46 PM  
Blogger Warren Epstein said...

Yes, Tom, we're out to get the Philharmonic. That's why we put the concert on the cover and centerspread of GO! today.

It was my call to move concerts online, and I'll take the heat from people who hate that idea. (my number is 636-0270.)

But let me be clear. This has nothing to do with the Philharmonic. We've already been doing it with our pop concerts and nobody has complained.

Mark's already spelled out some of the reasons for the change, but let me give you more details.

The main reason I went to on-line reviews was for fairness -- fairness to the artist or artists and fairness to the reviewer.

Here's our previous routine: Adrian Stanley goes to see The Who at the Pepsi Center. She brings her laptop and begins composing her story from the moment she sits down (seriously ticking off concertgoers sitting next to her who are annoyed by the light.) Because the opening act has pushed back the time, the concert runs long and she has to file at 10:30 p.m. Assuming she hasn't had technical difficulties (big assumption), she files a review covering the first two-thirds of the concert.

That's not fair to her (it's hard to think you're a real critic if you've only seen lots of partial concerts) or the artists. Often the best moments are the encores.

Then, there's Mark's classical reviews. He attends the dress rehearsal and then the first movement ... and writes his review, hoping that nothing major happened during the second half that deviates from what he saw at the dress.

(He is up front in his reviews about this.)


Then the reviews are buried inside the Metro section, along with the local car crashes.

Tom, which part of that routine makes sense to you?

I wish that we had a live entertainment page, something I've lobbied for unsuccessfully. Because of logistic issues, if we went live, something else would have to be produced in the morning. What would we pre-produce: sports? business news?

So we're stuck with some difficult compromises.

The good thing about this online experiment is that we can track the number of readers and see if it's working at all.

To drive readers to the reviews, I run as many in-paper refers as I can.

I realize that no matter how well we promote the online reviews, we're going to lose some older readers who aren't internet savvy, and, as you say, those readers represent a good chunk of our most dedicated demographic.

But if we're going to be timely (running a review two days after the fact is out of the question), I don't see a lot of other alternatives.

I look forward to more input after the fact to see what people thought of the approach.

1:14 PM  
Blogger GazetteCharities said...

I can assure you that no one "upstairs" is in a grudge match with the Philharmonic :) I can't really speak to editorial coverage because it's beyond my purview, but The Gazette and Gazette Charities supports the Philharmonic extensively with both cash and in-kind advertising donations. We are a partner in their efforts to engage the community in classical music appreciation and were a major donor to their capital campaign fund when their future was in question. While I realize that doesn't specifically address the blogger's concern regarding coverage, I did want to jump in to say that we really do care about their success as a vital community organization.

We don't always tout this, but The Gazette and Gazette Charities contributes more than $1.2 million in cash and in-kind gifts to over 200 nonprofit organizations EVERY YEAR. In fact, we partner with most major arts organizations in town to help them succeed and reach new audiences.

I don't mean to imply that there isn't a lot to improve upon, but I do think these facts should be considered when addressing The Gazette's role in the community.

Thanks for the opportunity to "speak my piece" on behalf of The Gazette!


Amanda Mountain
Gazette Charities Program Manager
The Gazette
30 South Prospect Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Phone: 719.636.0204
Fax: 719.636.0164

1:24 PM  
Blogger atomicelroy said...

I didn't say "out to get The Philharmonic" you ( just ) did.
I said "ticked off at", obviously sarcastically to bait your response.
Which I find very patronizing, like I'd actually believe the the rationalization you've removed cultural content to be "fair", wow, you should work for the Bush press office with that kind of spin. It sounds like something you'd say to your kids if you had to "SELL" them something you did for "their own good".
I think you are doing a disservice to the NEWSPAPER READING public by removing the concert reviews, whatever the rationalization used for the action.
I'm not at all against more cultural content on your internet component, I think it's needed to keep you competitive with High Plains Messenger and the Denver Post.
To me the fact the the only responses on this blog other than by Gazette employees are by me already says something about the decision.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Warren Epstein said...

I appreciate, as always, the baiting (going to the Bush thing already? doesn't give you much room to up the ante), but given the logistics of doing reviews on deadline, do you have a better solution?
Don't you think reviewing dress rehearsals or leaving early and writing about the first part is bogus?
You know I'm not trying to spin this. I'm honestly trying to figure out the best way to do concert reviews.
Will more people read a review inside Metro than online? I don't know. We have surveys that give us a rough idea of how many people read inside Metro (if not how many classical music lovers), and we'll have a counter of hits on the online reviews.
I guess we'll get some sense of how it's working once we do it a while.
Obviously, drawing people online takes a while. My Film Blog isn't exactly hoppin', nor is this one, but these sites are new.
If we're not being aggressive about drawing readers online now, our future will be dismal. Our dead tree edition has maybe two decades left. If we haven't established ourselves as a relevant voice by then, bloggers like you will steal away all our readers.
Nobody wants that. It would mean real work for you, maintaining a site and all. Aren't there more fun things you could be doing?

4:50 PM  
Blogger atomicelroy said...

Argh! I'm exposed! a MASTER BAITER!

True the future of paper info sources is dismal.
Why can't the review be printed in the paper on Monday? How does the Post or the News work the deadlines?
Of course reviewing dress rehearsals or leaving early is bogus!
FYI I did an email notice to a large list about this blog. I hope it helps.
I do opperate a full fleged site, a personal blog, and a blog for my theatre company. I don't mind work!


7:25 PM  
Anonymous Warren Epstein said...

Running the review two days after the concert is just too late, especially when you're covering a two-night gig. You lose the opportunity for the review to be a consumer service.

And, to tell you the truth, I don't think reviews are as valuable as previews, whether online or in print.

It's better to tell people what they can catch this weekend than tell them what missed (or what a small percentage of readers saw.)

By the way, The Post and Rocky often do have to file before the concerts are over.

But their press deadlines are later than ours.

9:43 PM  
Blogger atomicelroy said...

The Gazette is the paper of record in COS. Publishing reviews of arts events is the same thing as covering a large fire, or a car crash, troop deployments, etc. it's what they used to fill the papers with, NEWS!
The CS Philharmonic is one of the major art institutions in the city, what it does should be treated with the same respect you treat city council meetings, elections, etc. it's what's the word again? oh yes... NEWS!
2 days later, or 10 days later , the review should be published.
No wonder you canned the reviews, you seem to look at publishing news about art groups as some kind of PR or boosterism or free advertising.

It is a really STUPID idea.
We disagree i guess!

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Warren Epstein said...

I respect your right to disagree, call my ideas stupid. Fine. But each one of your rants seem to veer further from the point.
We're not moving away from covering the arts. Just the opposite. Tonight, we actually ended up spending a lot more time and effort covering the Philharmonic than we ever have before.
But it was worth it. Mark got to stay for the whole concert, which was glorious. It was an amazingly different experience for him than his dress-rehearsal routine.
The idea that covering concerts online somehow relinquishes our role as newspaper of record is absurd. That review files into our archive. Just because it's not on newsprint doesn't mean it's not important, that it's not permanent.
And it's funny that you would get all huffy about NEWS... and suggest that it's still news if you get it in two days late... no, tom that's OLDS.
I tried to think of some comeback to your rant about how I see publishing news about art groups as boosterism, but I couldn't even see what I might have said that would have led to that conclusion.
I feel like I'm in that Monty Python sketch where the guy walks into an office and buys an argument...

12:01 AM  
Blogger atomicelroy said...

The concept of not publishing a review in the paper is reducing the coverage of the arts in the paper. The net result is less people will read the reviews.
Does it matter how much time is spent experiencing the concert, which results in a more conscise review if hardly any one reads it?

This is not an argument.. it's merely contradiction!


11:56 AM  
Anonymous Warren Epstein said...

I don't think it's a forgone conclusion that fewer people will read it online than inside Metro.

We promoted it twice in the paper and kept it on the main page of since midnight Saturday. We should get a good idea after we do this for a few weeks how many people are reading.

Sorry if I seemed huffy, but I'm actually glad you took this on. I'm sure there are lots of people in the arts community who feel the same way you do.

If it bombs, we'll look for another way to do reviews. But I loved Mark's review of the Beethoven. You can tell he not only experienced it but had a few moments to think about it.

7:26 PM  
Blogger atomicelroy said...


Oh don't worry no hard feelings.

BTW, some of my best work comes from DUMB ideas!


7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We enjoyed your Philharmonic review on internet (do use that even though we're in our 70s), but wish your reviews could also be printed in the Gazette. "Both" would be much better than "either." We thank you for your intelligent reviews.

G. and A. H.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Van Hoy said...

Hi Warren,

You mentioned previews. That's what the Phil has needed all along. When you have a blurb on the inside cover of GO! it really helps our turnout. I would like to see Mark write an article introducing the artists/program to everyone in the GO! This would positively affect us more than any review.

7:40 PM  

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