Updated, with a comment from the L.A. Times, below
Recently laid-off L.A. Times arts reporter Jori Finkel is L.A.'s most wanted woman — by museum directors, at least.
After Variety first broke the news that Finkel would be one of 11 employees laid off as the paper looks toward potentially being sold, directors from virtually every major museum in the city co-signed a letter to the Times sharing “deep concerns about the decision.” The letter criticizes the Times for laying off its only visual art specialist for a city that the directors call “the most influential center for contemporary art and culture.”
In the letter addressed to Davan Maharaj, the editor of the Times, the directors call for the reinstatement of the position and note the importance of a reporter to give context to Times critics' reviews.
Additionally, the directors allude to the potential sale of the Times in saying that “some of the potential buyers of the L.A. Times are art collectors and follow arts news with special interest.” The letter wraps by saying that as both readers and advertisers, the directors “expect more from the paper.”
Co-signers of the letter include the directors of the Hammer Museum, the Getty, LACMA, MOCA and Fowler, among others.
The cutting of Finkel's position was first announced in an internal memo released to staffers by Maharaj, which also included the layoffs of several other employees. The paper's design department suffered the greatest loss, losing seven members of staff.
In addition to the letter, the Hammer Museum has created a Change.org petition calling for the reinstatement of Finkel. As for Finkel herself, she's retweeted both the report about the letter and the petition. She was previously silent on her Twitter account after news of her layoff broke.
Update: L.A. Times spokesperson Nancy Sullivan writes in an email:
We have received the letter in question and appreciate that the museums care passionately about the Los Angeles Times and our coverage of the arts. As a policy, we do not discuss employee relations, but our commitment to intelligent and illuminating reporting of arts and culture in Southern California is in no way diminished. We devote more staff resources to the arts than almost any other general news organization in the country.
Here's the full text of the original letter:
Mr. Davan Maharaj
Los Angeles Times
Dear Mr. Maharaj,
We were dismayed to learn that your art reporter, Jori Finkel, was let go in the Los Angeles Times' most recent round of layoffs. We are writing to you now to share our deep concerns about this decision and to call for the reinstatement of this position.
Jori is the go-to source here for art-world news and analysis, with articles that are consistently insightful and accessible and a byline that is read around the world. Her early coverage in 2011 of the Getty's ambitious $10-million Pacific Standard Time initiative and the many collaborating museum exhibitions helped to shape much of the national and international coverage that followed. Since then, she has been breaking major museum news and writing must-read artist profiles, informed by a broad understanding of art history and the current scene as well as the art market. These stories give context for reviews by the paper's critics – Christopher Knight most notably. Jori's work and that of the critics go hand-in-hand to provide a sophisticated and robust picture of Los Angeles's ever-expanding art scene.
It is especially unfortunate to see you dismiss your only staff reporter specializing in art now that Los Angeles is increasingly recognized worldwide as the most influential center for contemporary art and culture. For instance, just as she was being laid off, the New York Times dedicated nearly three full pages to L.A.'s significance within the international art world. Without a dedicated art reporter the competitive positioning of the paper is seriously undermined. (It's also worth noting that some of the potential buyers of the L.A. Times are art collectors and follow arts news with special interest.)
Art and culture also have a serious economic impact on this city. According to the most recent Otis Report on the Creative Economy, one in eight regional jobs in L.A. and Orange County are generated by the creative industry, which has a total economic output of over $230 billion annually. The visual arts in Southern California have proven particularly rich, varied and impactful. Certainly a world-class city with world-class art deserves a newspaper that fully understands that impact.
As Los Angeles Times readers and advertisers, we expect more from the paper. Moving forward we hope that the L.A. Times restores this important position and better recognizes its responsibility to cover the art and culture that shapes our creative city.
Director, Hammer Museum
President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust
Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum
CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Director, Museum of Contemporary Art
President, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Director of the Art Collections, The Huntington Library, Art
Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Shirley & Ralph Shapiro Director, Fowler Museum at UCLA
Executive Director, Santa Monica Museum of Art
Executive Director, California African American Museum
Director/Chief Curator, The Broad Art Foundation
Director and CEO, Orange County Museum of Art
The David C. Copley Director, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Director, Palm Springs Art Museum