In case you haven't seen the news at The Theater Loop, where Chris Jones was kind enough to let us make our announcement yesterday, TOC has hired John Beer as our new theater writer. John will be taking over my number-two position as I become theater editor next week. He's a terrific, savvy writer who's been reviewing for the section since late 2005, apart from a couple-year stint in New York where he wrote theater reviews for The Village Voice and all sorts of things for the Brooklyn Rail. His tastes complement my own without mimicking them, and I think he'll be a fantastic addition to the staff.
I would like to take the opportunity to address a couple of comments that came up on the Loop:
Oh good. Heaven knows we need more middle-aged white male critics in Chicago.
I was anticipating this one, for the most part—I think John and I both would object to "middle-aged," but I'll grant you the white male part. I've tried to make it known, in my writing at TOC, panel appearances, the Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast a few weeks back, and here at Storefront, that diversity among critics is something of a pet issue of mine; I hope to expand TOC's stable of freelancers over the next several months, and the folks I've already been in contact with are not all white males.
That said, in order to fill this position relatively quickly and smoothly, we needed someone who didn't need an extended trial run, who already knew the TOC voice, and who was willing to work part time. Which brings us to our next comment:
For anyone paying attention, it seems clear that Time Out's theatre section is in serious trouble in its print form. When announcing Piatt's resignation, the Tribune reported that TOC "assured that new position would be full-time." With this announcement, it is clear the position is part-time. Also, a key reason for Vire's promotion was his interest in the TOC online brand. Something tells me that two years from now, TOC's theatre coverage will be online only, if at all.
The actual quote from the Trib's original reporting, which is still accessible because, news flash, this is the internet, read: "Frank Sennett, editor of Time Out Chicago, said that he plans to hire a replacement for Vire, offering a rare job opportunity for a theater critic." (For purposes of full disclosure, my TOC boss Frank Sennett and Chris Jones are pals going back to their shared tenure at NewCity in the ’90s.)
Note that nobody said at the time the replacement hiring would be full-time. That's because a month ago, when Piatt had just given his notice, we didn't know what the plan was going to be. I was just happy that Frank was committing to hiring a replacement at all. I wasn't surprised when we decided that, given current economic realities, it would be shifted to part-time. I'm delighted that part-time status is actually amenable to John.
What this means is that I'm basically restructuring everything about the way our section is run week-to-week, which is a great segue to the next point of this comment: "For anyone paying attention, it seems clear that Time Out's theatre section is in serious trouble in its print form."
Allow me to put on my new editor's hat here. "For anyone paying attention, it seems clear that print media worldwide is in serious trouble in its print form." FIXED.
Christopher Piatt and I have both strived to be transparent in our processes, which is what a lot of Storefront Rebellion has ended up being about. That's why Christopher has made no bones about the fact that he's less comfortable in the online world than I am, and I made a point of telling Chris Jones that the new writer position would be part-time.
Print space is a decreasing commodity everywhere. Our print listings may not be as fully comprehensive every week as I'd like them to be, but every listing will always be on the site. I'm also looking at the possibility of running some reviews as Web-exclusive, as well as increasing our emphasis on blog content and finding new ways to work with online content that the print mag can't provide. That doesn't mean the theater section will disappear in print—we are still primarily a print product, and my first focus will always be on what subscribers get in their mailboxes—but, given that the theater section gets much of the highest traffic on timeoutchicago.com, I don't think it's the end of the world, either.
I can't finish this post without acknowledging that it's the first post here at Storefront in two weeks, and the last was pretty much filler. And the theater section at the TOC blog has been pretty active in that time. So I guess I don't know yet if Storefront can continue in its current form—maybe after I've cleared the transition hurdle, I'll be back with enough energy for both. I hope so. This blog has deepened my relationship to the scene I've been blessed to write about for the last four-plus years, and I hope it can remain. What I'm saying is, keep me in your feed reader, 'cause I hope there's more to come.
Also-also? The third of the three comments on the Loop blog as of this posting reads only:
Three cheers for Kris Vire!!!
Um, okay! I don't know what I did to deserve that, but consider yourself deeply thanked, "Thrbuff." I really appreciate it.