Archive for January 14th, 2013|Daily archive page

Dear Sarah Crompton, Stick To Learning Italian.

In Classical Music, Opera on January 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I don’t know why Sarah Crompton’s most recent piece in The Telegraph has riled me so. But it has.

I have read it. And re-read it. And thought about it. And discussed it with friends. And it is still poking at my hackles after the weekend.

I know I should let it go but I can’t.

It’s not that she has seemingly declared war on “citizen journalists” and “citizen critics” but it’s her old world, faux privileged view of her own position in society.

Now, clearly I blog. I don’t profess that I know more than any other person blogging, nor sitting next to me at a concert or recital or listening to the same CD as me for that matter. But I respect their point of view and on more than one occasion I have changed my own opinion after discussion, debate or simple advice.

I don’t make a living by blogging. That’s not why I started and I would have thought that this is true for the majority of people who do blog.

I blog because I care passionately about classical music. It’s a major part of my life. No day – or rarely any day – goes by without me listening to classical music at some point.

We all have to make a living Sarah. You chose journalism. That doesn’t mean that my opinion is any less valid than yours simply because I am not paid for my point of view.

In your own words you have chosen to devote your life to the pursuit of “cultural judgement”. And there we have it. “Judgement”. What a damning word and just about sums up how you see yourself. Jury. Judge. Keeper of some sort of sacred flame.

None of the blogs I read exist simply to give a “thumbs up or down” and definitely not in the sometimes savage manner of many of your own peers. And I can think of more than a few journalists who make irritated or irritating comments.

I don’t deny that being a critic – paid, citizen or otherwise – is a hard task to master. I would argue that as much attention and love goes in to many blogs as you put into your own articles. But to blatantly say that only paid critics can have the knowledge and judgement (again) to ‘analyse something they have seen, to set it in context and give guidance on what it might feel like is’, quite frankly, patronizing.

And furthermore, you seem to imply that only critics read around their subject. Really? Seriously? Personally I think I could match you article for article, book for book in terms of reading around the subject I love. I don’t get paid for it and I do it on my own time.

And while we are talking about ‘filthy lucre’, when was the last time you actually paid for your ticket – or that of your ‘plus one’? How lucky you are to get tickets for anything you want including complimentary wine and nibbles, and possibly in any country that you want, paid for by your newspaper.

Bloggers are self-funding. Not even complimentary wine and nibbles for us.

But underlying all of this do I sense a feeling of paranoia? This isn’t the place to revisit the challenges print media faces but clearly it isn’t valid to lay the blame entirely at the door of social media.

Newspapers – like many major institutions – have to an extent lost touch with their customers. Some – like The Guardian, The Times, despite its paywall and even The Telegraph – have boldly embraced the challenge of digital with varying degrees of success or found new ways to re-engage their readers. I personally applaud your own newspaper’s The Opera Novice. Surely we can agree that anything that gets people into the auditorium is a good thing? I like Sameer Rahim’s fresh perspective and his articles often make me listen and watch anew something I have known for years. Or does it send a shiver down your spine, the thought of someone without knowledge, context or ‘judgement’ writing a review in your own newspaper?

So perhaps it’s the fear of digital wolves howling from infinite cyberspace at your own door that has really got you worried. Why? No arts blog could – I imagine – hope to match your newspaper’s circulation. Or perhaps your marketeers have shown you some distressing data about the clickthroughs to your own articles? Who knows.

But I do agree with you on one thing. We do need a vibrancy of cultural debate both by critics and citizen journalists. But sadly if you had your way you would ghettoize – or perhaps rather smother – those very people who (used to) read your column.

So I tell you what Sarah. You don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.



Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

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