Stage Raw: Don Shirley and City Beat

Stage Raw: Don Shirley and City Beat


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The news that L.A.'s City Beat is folding leaves the prospect of the former L.A. Times arts reporter and City Beat theater columnist/critic Don Shirley without gainful employment -- temporarily I hope.

It also mutes the opinions of one of L.A. theater's most tenacious, fastidious and hard-working supporters. Don and I frequently have philosophical and aesthetic differences, and the city has benefited from that discourse. (The word "conversation" has now been beaten into a platitude from overuse, from two many laments for too many disappearing arts critics.)

As Don noted on the L.A. Times' arts blog,  what can be said has been said -- and said recently -- about the symbiosis between arts criticism and an arts community.

It was said when Village Voice Media eliminated the theater editor position at the L.A. Weekly, coinciding with the laying off of arts writers and critics at The Daily Breeze, the L.A. Daily News and Variety.  

Through the intervening weeks, local management has been responsive to the community upset over the decision at the Weekly, which is among the reasons I'm still so involved with the paper, still writing this blog and helping to organizing the paper's theater awards. The larger issue is the crumbling of media pillars and the, as yet, unanswerable questions of what online form journalism will take, in order to maintain professionalism, the credibility of a divide between advertising and editorial, and financing for what's really a life-support system for the arts, and for an open society.

My respect for Don Shirley is enormous, and I suspect that neither he, nor journalism itself, are going away.

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