Guy Somerset, Books & Culture Editor for New Zealand Listener, issued the following statement on 23rd May 2012:
The Listener’s commitment to the arts in New Zealand is second to no other publication – something that has been demonstrated over many years and continues to be demonstrated week in and week out through the coverage in our Arts & Books section (or Books & Culture, as it will be called from this weekend), as well as elsewhere in the magazine with features about arts-related issues and interviews with leading arts practitioners.
However, with finite space and resources, we have to ensure we focus on the things our readers value most, which, first and foremost, time and time again, has proven to be our books coverage.
We, of course, continue to cover the other arts – and do so with a rarely matched breadth, utilising New Zealand’s best critics and arts writers.
However, we must be selective about what we write about, to ensure a fair distribution of coverage across pop and classical music, film, visual art, theatre, dance, etc, while also recognising we are a national magazine and need to provide something for readers everywhere.
In order to achieve this, we are dialling back our theatre reviews, but will continue to review the most important productions and those where reviews will resonate with readers beyond the productions’ local audiences.
At the same time, we will have more preview articles, where the interview with a playwright or actor will be of interest in its own right, regardless of readers’ ability to attend the actual production.
We are also introducing a weekly column called Take Five, in which we will highlight a handful of events worth checking out that week, and this will include pointers to plays.
As is already the case, our articles will be available both in the print edition of the magazine and later online for comment.
Combined, this theatre coverage continues to far exceed anything being offered by other national publications.
What we are doing is bringing our theatre reviewing policy in line with that we have for other arts reviews (including visual art, classical music, dance, etc – all of which continue) and ensuring we concentrate on what is most noteworthy.
This is the editorial judgment our readers trust us to deliver them.
Dear The Listener,
Meet your website. In a time when you’re purportedly trying to develop an online presence, it’s completely inexplicable and, frankly, irresponsible that you are cutting down on what is already a paltry coverage of New Zealand theatre. I count eighteen reviews for 2012. Eighteen: that’s less than one a week – especially since you do things like cram five festival shows into a thousand-word piece.
Your promise that you will “continue to review the most important productions” is terrifying because your idea of ‘important’ appears to be productions put on by Auckland Theatre Company, Silo Theatre, and touring internationals. This is not a commitment to the arts, let alone one that’s “second to no other publication” – this is a commitment to advertising theatre which you already know appeals to and is consumed by your affluent and influential readership.
The amazing thing about a website is that you can publish content on there – content that doesn’t even have to appear in the print version of your magazine – and you’re doing this with the book club. Well done. There’s possibly a reason why your readers value your book coverage over your theatre coverage, and one that’s completely unrelated to personal preference.
I respectfully disrespect your decision to cut back on your less-than-one-play-per-week reviewing schedule, but please be honest with yourself: to say that your theatre coverage “continues to far exceed anything being offered by national publications” is a joke, only nobody is laughing.
The Pantograph Punch
Update: Guy Somerset sends some tweets our way:
And our reply: