Daily newspapers once saw arts and cultural criticism as one of their main duties.
New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross in an online piece dissects the erosion of that work, especially a cutback in the number of newspaper classical music critics.
Ross says that newspapers in their switch from print to online publishing increasingly make their editorial decisions based on the number of "clicks" a piece will receive, rather than its social value.
The decline in classical music criticism matches a falloff in classical music audiences. While Ross points out that concerts remain popular in many cities, classical music fans tend to be older. With cuts in arts education budgets, younger people are not gaining an appreciation for the arts. In the last few years, major symphonies have struggled financially.
The New York Times recently de-emphasized classical music coverage, now running a weekly roundup of brief reviews instead of giving each concert or performance a lengthy review, as was done in the past. The Times has also given less prevalence to book reviews.
Art exhibits and the theater still receive prominent attention, although the Times canned its No. 2 theater critic, Christopher Isherwood. The Times said Isherwood had gotten too close to a theater publicist, but a New York magazine article said he had resisted the newspaper's cutback of cultural coverage, and had conflicts with the main critic, Ben Brantley.
As Ross points out, classical music critics in cities like Atlanta carried out valuable educational roles as well as setting strong cultural standards. Many who began going to classical concerts could learn about the music and its traditions by reading the newspaper's critics.
Actually, the AJC still reviews the ASO, with freelance writers instead of staff writers. My impression is that the depth of expertise is weaker, although the writers do an adequate job.
The newspaper used to have staff movie critics; now it runs wire reviews. Books receive less and less attention. Food and restaurant coverage is what matters most.