Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bad News Travels Fast: Allan Kozinn and The New York Times

Yesterday, Norman Lebrecht leaked that The New York Times has taken Allan Kozinn off the music-criticism beat. The news spread fast, and it did not go over well.

Robert Schwimmer started a petition almost immediately on change.org to reinstate Kozinn, and now has 899 signatories.  Fellow critics chimed in: Alex Ross expressed his disappointmentTim Smith smelled a rat; Tim Page rambled on in the comments section of Lebrecht's blog post.

As complimentary as people have been of Kozinn, the outcry is really as much about a general dissatisfaction with the Times's classical-music coverage as it is about this particular "reassignment."
The comments section accompanying Lebrecht's original post is loaded with Times-related animus. Pianist and From the Top host Christopher O'Riley, calling Kozinn a "level headed, agenda-free music critic," took a clear shot at the Grey Lady: "the (sic) same cannot be said for the posers and pretenders who've come and gone (and now appear to be taking up residence) at The Times."

The person taking up residence is, apparently, Zachary Woolfe. Lebrecht claims that the situation is "rooted entirely in the poison of internal politics" at the Times, and claims that it is a not-so-subtle attempt to install Woolfe as Anthony Tommasini's heir apparent at the expense of Kozinn. Commenters piled on, criticizing Woolfe's writing for being petty, overly critical, and just plain mean.

Kozinn's own statement on Facebook confirming the change was entirely classy, yet telling in what it omitted. While making a point of mentioning fellow Times critic Steve Smith as one of his colleagues whose work he will follow, Kozinn made no mention of Tommasini, Woolfe, or any of the other classical-music writers.

When I was a publicist, Kozinn was always incredibly professional and collegial, and treated me with respect. That good naturedness is reflected in his writing: like Steve Smith, I always get the sense that he genuinely loves music, loves his job, and wants to share that love--free of condescension--with all of us. Give his recent piece on John Cage a read--with hope that Kozinn will do more like this as the Times's new culture reporter.