Category Archives: newspaper

Hoot & Howl: The Reporter As Critic (And Vice-Versa).

In its very essence, the recent Philadelphia Inquirer article “Art poised for eager crowds” is a hard news/ general arts piece, announcing the May 19 opening of the new Barnes Foundation on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

In the way typical of hard news reporting, the article delves into various concrete facts about the museum. For example, when it mentions the operating budget for the museum, the article notes how 20 percent of that budget will come from endowment money. The article also notes the number of visitors the museum expects to have in the first few years. It notes the number of membership subscriptions the museum has been able to take in so far. The article even goes so far as to state how much those memberships and entrance tickets cost.

Striking, then, is the way this hard news reporting is actually embedded in a larger story that is more art criticism than general arts reporting. The larger story is about the Barnes and more specifically about the significance of the Barnes collection itself. As such, this article by Stephan Salisbury represents a hybrid of general arts news reporting and art criticism.

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Howl! A Failure to Dig Deeper.

In his City Paper article “Food Fight,” Isaiah Thompson reports that the city’s health department recently distributed flyers to Benjamin Franklin Parkway soup kitchen workers, inviting them to attend a meeting of the Board of Health. That board is responsible for putting city food safety rules in effect.

Thompson reports that Parkway soup kitchen organizations are leery of this recent invitation. They see it as just another attempt on the city’s part to remove the homeless from the Parkway to make the city’s Museum Row more appealing to tourism. After all, as Thompson notes, the new Barnes is opening soon.

The piece basically agrees with the soup kitchens. It even goes so far as to identify past city officials who have tried to clamp down on soup kitchens as a way of discouraging the homeless from congregating on the Parkway: former councilman Frank DiCicco and former mayors Ed Rendell and John Street.

That there may be a sinister motivation behind what the city’s health department recently did is surely tantalizing and worthy of investigation. Unfortunately, in the end, the article comes up short in its investigation. While the city insists that the board of health meeting is unrelated to cleaning up the Parkway of the homeless in time for the new Barnes, the article fails to press the question of why the meeting has to happen now. It never asks the city the question: “the board of health meeting invitation is well and good, but why now? Why issue that invitation now?”

Instead, the article merely reports that the health department’s move is to ensure the safety of the food served by soup kitchens, thereby failing to dig deeper into the story, failing to ask the city the tough questions.

Text by Charlie Chan. Image via City Paper.

HOOT! The Inquirer Takes the Extra Step. HOWL: City Paper Follows the Formula.

The New York Philharmonic has made a job offer to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal clarinetist, Ricardo Morales. In an October 19 article for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter Dobrin used the occasion to examine a number of issues that seem to come together in Morales.

First, Dobrin raises the question of whether Morales is “the thin edge of the wedge,” because the orchestra is threatening to cut salaries, musicians, and the length of the season—all valid reasons for top musicians to seek work elsewhere.

Second, for similar reasons, Dobrin questions whether the orchestra could retain Morales or replace him with another top clarinetist. But, Dobrin writes, “Lurking in the background is the hypocrisy that has long run through orchestral personnel decisions.” Continue reading

What Does Arts Coverage Look Like in Philadelphia?

Nick Gilewicz examined four week’s worth of the Philadelphia Weekly (above) and Philadelphia City Paper (below), the region’s two primary alternative weeklies. Both were fairly concentrated in the city but random events popped up in far off places like Bristol and Wilmington.

What Does Arts Coverage Look Like in Philadelphia?

Nick Gilewicz looked at one week’s worth of Philadelphia Daily News print papers and identified the local arts coverage: only four stories (with sidebars).

HOWL: A Music Article That Doesn’t Describe the Music?

The context that arts and entertainment preview stories offer tends to be see-through clothing that dresses a recommendation, and A.D. Amorosi’s “Caravan leads music fans on a tour of the Balkans” in the Philadelphia Inquirer is no different.

This piece is poorly structured. It opens with three graphs about why Philadelphia producer Aaron Levinson likes nouveau Gypsy music, and never quotes him. The third graph implies that he’s the man behind this week’s Caravan Festival event, but it’s unclear. Amorosi offers up quotes from members of Philadelphia bands that explore this genre—Erik Petersen of Mischief Brew and Elliot Levin of the West Philadelphia Orchestra—but doesn’t explore the genre much himself. And the piece equates “Baltic,” “Balkan,” and “Gypsy,” which are three different things. But through these interviews, Amorosi finds local ties to this musical movement, which the Inquirer‘s TV, film, and gossip columns frequently fail to provide for their genres. Continue reading

Hoot(ish): Love the Story. Want More Info!

For the cover story of Philadelphia Weekly‘s October 6 issue, Tara Murtha writes a feature on Philadelphia singer Res (real name Shareese Ballard). Res met with modest success a decade ago, when her album How I Do garnered her mainstream attention, including video airplay on VH1 Soul, a contract that paid her living expenses while she toured and recorded, and that gave her the pick of the musicians she worked with

The essence of this story Res’s return to Philadelphia and her transition into an indie artist, and the peg is a monthlong Sunday-night residency Res is doing at Silk City in Northern Liberties. The piece is also set against the general implosion of the music industry. Her first album was out on MCA, which was absorbed by Geffen, and although she survived the transition, other, bigger artists were given priority despite Res’s selling 300,000 copies of How I Do. Her second album wasn’t released at all, although downloads of Black.Girls.Rock! can be easily found.

Still, Res has some profile, according to Murtha’s article. She toured with Gnarls Barkley, singing backup on the tour to support their first album, and Murtha’s article opens with Res onstage with Idle Warship, a collaboration with Talib Kweli, one of the most respected MCs in hip hop, and Canadian cross-genre artist Graph Nobel, who is less well-known but has popped up here and there in the scene.

While there are some interesting and sometimes tangential nuggets – Res’s early songwriting partner was Santigold, aka Santi White, who, much to my surprise, turns out to be disgraced Philadelphia political-insider Ron White‘s daughter – and Murtha does offer a lot of context for the points mentioned above, the piece seems to sag in the middle.

At one point, 44 graphs of nothing but Murtha’s and Res quotations exist between any other sources. This evinces two problems. Continue reading