This is bad business. Newspapers across North America are cutting costs by dumping their music writers. The Times-Picayune in New Orleans–a music city if there ever was one–got rid of theirs. The New York Daily News, one of the highest-circulation dailies in North America no longer has a full-time music writer. Christ, even USA Today (daily circulation: 2.8 million) dumped their guy. What the hell are they thinking?
Okay, so what? There are a billion music blogs out there that offer the same thing for free. Or do they?
Music criticism is hard. Yes, everyone can have an opinion on a song/album/band, but the trick is having an informed opinion rather than a simple binary “this is great/this sucks” position. It takes a lot of time and dedication to become a credible critic. It takes time for a writing style to develop that is clear, concise and easy for anyone to understand. And with so much music out there, you need someone with experience to help you navigate through all the crud and major label hype.
The New York Observer makes the case that we need professional music writers–including those hired by newspapers–more than ever.
Most of the daily newspaper music writers I know are intense music geeks, but they do not let this get in the way of telling us about a Beyoncé show, and why we should care. Likewise, a music writer for a daily has to avoid being swept away by trends, yet remain informed enough to report accurately about them and place them within a workable and realistic context (New York Times, are you listening? A lot of your music writers sound as if they accrued most of their musical knowledge when they were at Bard and did a semester abroad in Berlin in 2011; God, I miss Karen Schoemer and Ann Powers).
Here are two examples of why the music writer position at a big city daily is so valuable: