Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

The Sunday Times

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to The Sunday Times after Marianne Thamm warned us that the one page of arts stuff is going to be reduced to one review and a listing. It would be great if we could all mobilise against this.

Dear Editor
It has been brought to the attention of the art fraternity that The Sunday Times will be reducing the national coverage of the arts from its current one page to one review and a listing. For many in South Africa I am sure this will have no impact whatsoever, but for those of us in the arts it comes as a huge, huge blow, and will be the difference between buying the Sunday Times or not.
I understand the reality that the arts in general, and arts reporting in particular, is niche in South Africa, and that The Sunday Times appeals to a huge and wide audience, but that one page of art reviews and listings brings together the arts from all over the country. We get a chance to feel part of a broader arts community, see what our friends (in my case up North) are up to. We get to feel, for one day, that our work is valuable and valued. Also, we get to feel that, amongst the twenty pages of sport, fifty pages of business and many pages of celebrity skandaal, we have a teeny but important place in The Sunday Times.
You have no idea how important this is. When I appeared in The Sunday Times arts review page (once or twice a long time ago) my family and friends passed this info along a grapevine that extends way past the borders of this country. Surely the value of that must work both ways; we get publicity and acknowledgement and you get to sell more newspapers. That’s the idea isn’t it?
Maybe I’m missing something but it would be great to know what deserves that one page more than us, the struggling, yet totally determined and passionate arts world of this country?
Please, please reconsider and leave us our one page.

So that was my letter. I am sure that the more they get the stronger the cause. Send yours to tellus@sundaytimes.co.za

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14 Comments

  1. Simon Cooper

    done

  2. Trevor du Buisson

    I think that the print media is struggling as much as anyone else to maintain sales. It has been a long time coming that print media is heading toward becoming obsolete. However there is sometimes the idea that newspapers are higher in status than online media. This is shifting. It begs the question, “How will the intended target market/ arts community be affected?” What is the demographic of the target market, and how many have access to online media?

    If the Sunday Time are diminishing their print product, perhaps they would do well to extend their online arms and outsource to people such as yourself Megan.

    They would also do well to take a note form this guy’s book:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jacek_utko_asks_can_design_save_the_newspaper.html

  3. nick ashby

    Same moves it seems with the Sunday Independent. Used to do the only decent Sunday book page – gone.

  4. alfred rietmann

    Not to mention other newspapers – its sad and pathetic

  5. BigFriendly

    The online status isn’t much better these days. You really have to dig around to find anything. The most current Theater review on MG is dated “Aug 27 2010”. Channel24 doesn’t even have a Theater section. Tonight.co.za is about the best of the mainstream news outlet online presences.

    What is needed is a theater/performing arts site where accredited and freelance reviews can review productions and where all current and upcoming productions are listed. The site needs to be independent.

  6. Simon Cooper

    Try http://www.yoursoapbox.co.za/ as a start – maybe it can become wider in content but it has grown tremendously in the 9 months or so that it has existed and Rory Berry [the guy who drives it, with some help I am sure] is open to most ideas but equally they will need help and support from theatre/venue managements. These guys say they will review within 24 hours and our experience is that they do. Have a look and chat with Rory.

  7. BigFriendly

    Hi Simon

    Looks like a good one. I was thinking of doing something along these lines myself. The issue with this is that nobody knows about it. Mainly audiences, which is why we have theater, dance and exhibitions. My point is that the community need to agree on a platform and promote the hell out of it. Every program, flyer, review, mail, twitter, facebook, word of mouth and promotion avenue needs to point people to the site. ALL stake holders in the performing arts need to make people aware of this site (or an alternative).

  8. Simon Cooper

    Agreed – will chat to Rory soon and get him on board.

  9. Here’s mine:

    Dear Sir,

    I note with some disquiet that the Sunday Times is to cut down its arts coverage even further; what a disgrace! Is this a pre-emptive strike before the secrecy bill and media appeals tribunal are implemented, or is it simply a continuation of the dumbing-down policy your readership has been subjected to of late? Is it not enough that the arts community is victimised by adverse policy, meager funding, exploitative managements and the collapse of the public broadcaster? Now one of the most powerful voices in the print media has decided to put the boot in; shame on you!

    The Sunday Times has an obligation to provide even more coverage of the arts, not less. At a time when press freedom is under threat, we hear newspapers such as yours proclaim how our eyes on the world will be blinded, our ears deafened. We are asked to stand together as Media Freedom guarantees our right to know what’s going on in our country; it allows us to participate fully in the decisions affecting us. And what of the arts, Mr Editor? Are the arts not a valid medium for intellectual and ethical inquiry? Are the arts not a legitimate way of investigating our ever-changing world? Of course they are! And what’s more, the arts provide unique ways of exploring the meaning of memory and tradition, and of charting the inner, subjective surfaces of human experience.

    How dare the Sunday Times claim to support media freedom, while at the same time helping to stifle the voices of the artists in our communities. The arts are a powerful vehicle for communication, a way to express visions that are beyond the capacity of words and a medium for cultural enlightenment. The arts are crucial to our democracy; they are an indispensable foundation for free-thinking citizens, exploring the emotional dimensions of experience, shaping public discourse about critical issues and formulating visions of the future.

    Ignore the arts and not only do you help chip away at our freedom, you demean our very humanity.

    Adrian Galley
    Cape Town

  10. megan

    Wow Adrian.

  11. Simon Cooper

    Dear Adrian
    I like your letter but as the founder member and, so far, only member of TAEM [Theatres against Exploitative Managements], I must object to the generality of the words “exploitative managements” in your letter. Managements, exploitative or otherwise, also stand to lose by actions such as that now contemplated by the Shunday Times [not a typo !!] and if there are no managements, there are no theatres, and if there are no theatres, there is no work for performers [except for prostitution work – and you will know what I mean by that]. So we are at the forefront of the barricades with you, and if there are any who are not, they should be.
    Aluta Continua
    SIMON COOPER

  12. Simon Cooper

    Interesting comment from a guy called Mike Bosazza in reply to another, similar, email sent out asking people to write to the Sunday Times –
    “Sorry, Tara, but the only way to hit back at the newspapers’ complete disinterest in the arts is for the arts to stop advertising in the newspapers. You HAVE to hit them where it hurts – in their pockets.
    There must be other ways to let us (members of the audience) know when shows are opening, starting times, venues etc. I gave up expecting to learn anything of value about a new play, opera, ballet, musical performance from the press, years ago. Their critics (if they have any) are free-lance journalists who are lucky if they get their review in the press. Usually the newspapers only publishes the press release prepared by the company and supplied to the press.
    No, I don’t think that press is worth worrying about. It is sad because I still prefer to read a newspaper than an on-line report, but the reality is that they are so short-sighted that they cannot see further than their “bottom-line”. They are looking for profits for their shareholders and cannot see that one by one the people who buy the papers are giving up on them. I stopped reading the Argus about 20 years ago when the editor decided that I wasn’t his target market.
    No, the Theater Club tells me about the shows in Cape Town or I pick up a brochure at the theatre. I don’t expect a newspaper to offer me anything more than scandal, confused coverage of some political events and sport. Actually the Death Notices are what I read most carefully these days!”

  13. megan

    Thanks Simon, I think the point he makes is most valid. We would have to come together and take a very brave stand to ‘not’ advertise.

  14. Hi Simon
    Dear Simon
    Thanks for your response; of course your objection to my clumsy wording is entirely valid. I had by no means intended to imply that all managements are exploitative. (I could have said “‘some’ exploitative managements”, but that would have diluted the tone of my outrage.) It is of course telling that you are the only member of the TAEM team, a position which suggests that you are all too aware of those bad eggs to whom I refer ( those who assume artists are all prostitutes!). But, truth be told, I count myself among those who, in tough times, have been extremely thankful for the existence of the pimps, so your point is well made.
    Respect!
    Adrian

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