The San Diego Union-Tribune lays off art critic Robert Pincus
Robert L. Pincus was among the approximately 35 people laid off by the San Diego Union-Tribune last Thursday.
When news hit the local art scene, people openly expressed their anger and concern.
“It’s been kind of overwhelming,” said Pincus, whose e-mail, Twitter and Facebook inboxes have been flooded with messages from well-wishers since the announcement went public.
The response was so widespread that one local artist even sent me a Facebook message in what sounded like an upset call-to-action.
“Is there anything that can be done about this?” asked the artist. “What the hell?”
As the book and art critic at the daily paper for more than two decades, Pincus’ work has reached all corners of the San Diego art world—from the city’s big arts institutions and museums to emerging artists just introducing their work.
When Jeff Light, the new editor at the U-T, stepped into his position in early March of this year, Pincus and others who are now unemployed say they had no idea what direction the paper would take.
Pincus said he began to sense a somewhat wavering support for visual arts, but he thought his job was safe. He was, after all, one of the only staff writers covering the visual arts.
“I’m worried about arts coverage, clearly,” Pincus said. “We were stretched thin as it was.”
In an editor’s note last Friday, Light did briefly mention the paper’s new direction. “We will have a restaurant critic, a shopping column and a traffic column, as well as coverage of pop and classical music, theater and fine art,” he wrote. “And we will add a critic-at-large who ventures beyond entertainment and the arts.”
Mostly, Light focused on the paper upping its business reporting.
“I think it’s a form of disrespecting the visual-arts community, saying they’re not terribly important,” Pincus said. “In other words, they don’t need a voice among critics. I don’t think I’m saying anything that isn’t really obvious. It seems like it’s not important enough to keep arts coverage, but another priority was to add on business writers. I think it’s a bad thing because the arts community is large. It’s a very substantial community, and for them not to have equally substantial coverage is really fairly poor.”
So far, Light hasn’t responded to my requests for comments regarding the future of the U-T‘s visual-arts coverage.