Today's print edition of The New York Times ran a review by Nate Chinen of a concert given at the Italian Academy, on the Columbia University campus, by the Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu in the company of guitarist Ralph Towner, who may be best known for his participation in the band Oregon. The review also covered their new ECM album, Chiaroscuro, which had been released on March 16. Those of us in cyberspace had the opportunity to learn about and read Chinen's review yesterday evening through RSS notification, and I see from my Firefox History that I clocked in to read it around 6 PM. I was curious to see what Chinen had to say, because Towner and Fresu are performing (probably the same concert) tonight here in San Francisco. What surprised me, however, was that I should be reminded of this local event by the Times. Chinen's piece concluded with the following (italicized in the original):
Ralph Towner and Paolo Fresu perform on Saturday at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum in San Francisco and on Sunday at the Triple Door in Seattle; ralphtowner.com.
I suppose I should not have been as surprised as I was. There are plenty of Bay Area residents for whom the Times is the daily paper; and for many of them it is their only daily newspaper, having decided that local papers like the Chronicle are just not offering enough to justify paying. I had assumed that such readers felt that the Times gave better coverage of world and national news and that one got more timely local coverage through radio and television. I had not given much thought to whether those readers were interested in performing arts coverage, let alone what they did to get it.
Is this a sign that the Times camel now has its nose under the tent of those who read primarily for arts news? Through my RSS reading I know that there are now two local writers covering local events for two non-local sources. One has been writing for the Financial Times for some time, and the other has only recently begun to appear in The New York Times. Meanwhile, even though the new presses allow all the pages of the Datebook to be printed in color, the section itself just keeps getting slimmer; and I suspect it will not be long before it is merged with another section, which is what has happened with Business.
This has definitely had an impact on my reading habits. These days I tend to be done with my Chronicle before I am half-way through the morning bowl of oatmeal. I am less resentful of this for several reasons. The most important is that I have more time for the far more substantive content of The New York Review, and anything I feel I may have missed I know I shall be finding on my computer screen after I have finished breakfast. Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe that the Times will ever really compensate for the arts coverage that most interests me, such as the subscription series of the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Performances. Unfortunately, it almost seems as if it has become "a truth universally acknowledged" that those of us who want such coverage will get it through RSS; and I am not sure how comfortable I am living with this truth. I suppose that, once I have no choice but to live with it, I shall find my comfort level "in the fullness of time."