Friday, November 07, 2014

Puzzling silence

A few days ago I shared with all of you here and in Facebook the fact that The Gazette newspapers intended to terminate Dr. Claudia Rousseau's visual arts review column today.  As I noted and I now have evidence, this is part of an apparent planned decimation of arts coverage in general by the Gazette newspapers (owned by the Washington Post).

I am somewhat surprised by a couple of things:
  • Seems like most of you don't care - and yeah, there has been some good noise in Facebook postings and a handful of you have emailed, called or otherwise contacted the newspaper in question. But nowhere near enough! There should be dozens and dozens of complaints... if you don't care, then don't ever bitch again about lack of arts coverage... every single one of you who's ever sent a news release about an art show to anyone should be sending a note to the editors of The Gazette.
  • I am less surprised by the fact that I've have not heard anything from Mr. Will Franklin.
We cannot just stand by and meekly allow this to happen. I once again demand that you contact Will Franklin at and send him an email on the subject. Here's a copy of the email that I sent a few days ago to Mr. Franklin:
Dear Mr. Franklin,

This note is to express both my disappointment and even outrage at the news that The Gazette intends to terminate Dr. Claudia Rousseau's visual arts coverage in The Gazette as part of an apparent decimation of its arts coverage in general.

While I suspect that the reasons behind these planned coverage cuts are all economic and due to reduction in overall coverage and reduction in size, I shouldn't have to remind anyone in the newspaper business that a newspaper's mission has several critical components that make it a newspaper and not just stuff printed on newsprint.

And coverage of the visual arts is a key one.

Unless you also plan to eliminate restaurant reviews, movie reviews, local events, etc. and reduce The Gazette to coverage of local High School sports, the idea that a "neighborhood" newspaper can be a contributor to its readership and part of the cultural tapestry of that neighborhood without critical components such as Dr. Rousseau's columns on the visual arts is a barbaric lack of understanding of what your readers deserve.

I also suspect, since The Gazette is owned by The Washington Post, that perhaps some of this "guidance" has come from above, most probably from bean counters as far removed from newsprint as possible. This is predictable, as the Washington Post is the only major newspaper in America (and possibly the world) without a visual arts critic in its permanent staff, and for the last two decades, since its last full-time gallery critic retired, has used a dizzying set of rotating freelancers to cover the Greater DC area visual art scene in an ad hoc manner.

Claudia Rousseau has been covering The Gazette's areas visual arts for over 11 years - that span is equaled by just one other published visual arts critic in the region. Ms. Rousseau's knowledge, access and insight into the area's visual arts cannot be lost by a simple reason of economics.

I plan to help rally the DC area's artists, gallerists, curators, collectors, donors and supporters to make sure that The Gazette (and the Washington Post) hear about Dr. Rousseau's termination. And for the first time in the many years that we've known each other, I plan to mix business with friendship and bring this to the personal attention of Jeff Bezos, whom as you probably know, is an ardent supporter of the arts.

I also intend to publish this note in DC Art News, and in the event that I receive an answer from you, or anyone else in The Gazette, will offer the opportunity to also publish your response.

Let me close this note by asking you to bring this issue to the attention of whomever is making this ill-advised decision; it will not happen without a lot of resistance from the DMV's visual art scene.

Warm regards,

F. Lennox Campello