Rory Jeffes has called on Greg Hywood to recognise the importance of critical arts journalism.
Sydney Symphony Orchestra is the latest to join a growing list of arts organisations condemning Fairfax Media’s decision to cut a quarter of its journalists. As has been reported in The Guardian, it is likely that amongst the 125 positions to be abolished are “all dedicated arts, film and books writers at The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, along with two deputy arts editor roles”.
Rory Jeffes, Managing Director of the SSO, has responded to the proposed cuts in a statement published by the MEAA, entitled “an open letter to Greg Hywood about the value of specialised arts journalism”. In it, he says: “I write as the Managing Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to express my deep concern at proposals we understand are being considered by Fairfax again to reduce coverage of the arts and make the positions of specialised staff arts writers redundant”.
“For performing arts companies, and individual artists, a culture of robust and independent arts criticism provides a critical link with their communities. It is a vital part of the virtuous circle of performance delivered and response returned that equips us all to further develop our work and strive for ever higher standards”.
Jeffes insists that the arts deserve and require to be critically reported on by experts, and that it is incorrect to claim that the arts falls under “non-core” journalism. “By employing specialist writers who intelligently report on the arts, you encourage rigorous and thoughtful cultural debate on the role of the arts in this country. These are the same conversations that take place in political, social and economic arenas; it is myopic to place “the arts” in a silo – as if somehow disconnected from broader societal issues”.
“The vibrancy of the arts is an important measure of a civilised society; they are not an add-on, and the calibre of arts embedded in that society represent one of the pillars of its worth as perceived both by that community and from outside. Cutting specialised coverage of the arts, and its unique role in informing and inspiring, would represent a direct blow to the cultural reputation of our nation resonating far beyond your pages”.
“Intelligent, informed arts coverage both records our nation’s cultural journey and is central to its future development. Without it, artists’ and performers’ work would become a moment lost in the winds of passing time. On behalf of the whole sector, we urge you to maintain your unique role as informed arbiters of our nation’s cultural life”.