Monday, December 07, 2009

L.A. Times

There have been a couple of noteworthy theater posts about the nature of LATimes' theater coverage. To begin, Don Shirley wrote on LAStageBlog on Friday about Charles McNulty writing to defend the L.A. theater scene before proceeding to write about New York shows with moviestars in them. He closes with the below.
[W]henever I see a front page theater review from New York (or, for that matter, last Sunday’s theater reviews from London by former Times critic Laurie Winer), I can usually think of a dozen worthy local shows that are newsworthy enough for front page coverage - and how that coverage might have benefited theater-interested Times readers a lot more than those reports from afar.
I didn't see this until this morning, well after rolling my eyes at the review of the New York premiere of David Mamet's new play, Race, placed on the front page of today's Calendar section. Shirley's sentiment is, of course, appreciated.

Of course the thing that Shirley fails to point out about McNulty's championing of the L.A. theater scene is that the majority of shows he points to as evidence are either imports of whole productions from other cities and countries or 2nd productions of plays. I find this telling too, both about what the LAT values and about the LA scene in general. But maybe that's a subject for another post. That I probably won't write.

Steven Leigh Morris chimes in here, calling out the commenters on Shirley's post for putting too much stock in the Times in a post he calls "The Masochism of L.A. Theater."
Never mind the Times' out-of-town ownership, its blatant East Coast bias, its equally blatant contempt for the theater in its own back yard manifested not in hostile reviews but its long insistence on all-but ignoring the scene, I find some of the respondents' comments on Don's article - summed up as Wouldn't It Be Better if the Times Gave Us More Coverage -- disheartening.

[...]

Really now, if you're at a party, and somebody whose attention you seek keeps snubbing you, there are two core responses: You can say, "I must be a piece of crap because I'm being ignored -- no spurned -- by this Important Person; if only they would throw me a kind word or a hostile word, any word at all!" This is fundamentally neurotic and part of a spiral of self-destruction.

And, by contrast, there's, "To hell with them. This is humiliating. I'm going to find a better party." That, to me, is a healthy response. This also exists in the community, but not so much in the comments on Don's post.
I don't have much to add to these posts, except to say that I don't think it's exactly shocking to call out the Times' theater coverage as lackluster. And anyway, how many people still read the LATimes? Particularly the arts coverage.

I also wonder if mainstream print journalism in any major city could be viewed differently; the NYTimes does as much fawning over celebrities on its commercial stages as the LAT does while ignoring the scrappier Off-Off set; you see that pointed out time and again on New York blogs. Does Chicago or Seattle or Houston have a more attentive mainstream paper?

Although in regards to that, Morris is right when he says this:
Finally, it isn't really the purpose of media outlets to promote your show, but to discuss it. Sometimes the two can overlap, but criticism that has any value doesn't start with the aim of offering pullquotes and selling tickets. That's what publicists are for.

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