Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Veteran Music Writer Eric Snider Laid Off from Tampa's Creative Loafing

I read the news today, oh boy.

Eric Snider, longtime writer and music columnist at Creative Loafing in Tampa, has been let go. I learned about it this morning on St. Petersburg Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans' blog. Read the post here.

What a travesty.

Snider is one of the area's most talented and most accomplished arts & entertainment writers. He's been covering music, and covering it well, longer than anyone else in the Tampa Bay area.

Unlike some other pop music critics, Eric has always gone beyond the pop ju dour and celebrity nonsense to dig into music that's more meaningful and has a longer shelf life than the hits of the day.

And, like the best critics, he has a wide range of interests - not just altrock, not just pop, not just hip-hop, not just classic rock, but all of those and more, including jazz, blues, Americana and world music.

That's an appropriate approach to music coverage. Why? Because readers who care about music, particularly the 40+ readers (you know, the ones who still buy newspapers?) want to read about more than the Jonas Brothers or Kanye West.

Eric's eclectic, insightful approach has been true of his writing going all the way back to his days at the old Music Magazine (where I first encountered Eric) and through his work as the pop music critic at the St. Pete Times and CL. He's also done some great features for Jazziz magazine.

First film critic Lance Goldenberg, then music writer Wade Tatangelo and now Eric. ???

If there's a strategy afoot here, it has nothing to do with retaining top talent and providing quality content to readers.

It's disappointing that newspapers (daily and weekly papers) increasingly are placing such a low priority on hiring and keeping journalists with valuable writing and reporting experience, and deep knowledge of their beats.

Yes, there are short-term savings to be had, when those positions aren't filled or are filled by less experienced, less capable journalists who can be had on the cheap.

For the long term, though, this upside-down staffing approach hurts readers, and, ultimately, newspapers. It results in publications that are more generic, more devoid of substance, and less relevant to the lives of consumers.

Fewer readers, and the advertisers go away. No advertisers, and the papers sink.

Why is all this so hard for newspaper publishers and managers to grasp?

CL's apologies, excuses, reasons, etc., related to the firing are available here. It was "an extremely painful decision," you know?


Anonymous said...

CL made a massive mistake in laying off Eric. He is one of the best writers in Florida.

D. Manson

Philip Booth said...

You've got that right, David.

Anonymous said...

Eric wrote about our band a lot back in the mid 90's and always captured the essence of who we were as musicians. He even participated at our shows by heckling and throwing stuff. He understood that rock was supposed to be about fun and not staring at your shoes. Best wishes Eric, don't let the circumstances change your spirit...

Joe Popp

Mark Warren said...

Having been in-the-know regarding the layoffs in Tampa Bay print journalism of late, I can assure you that these kinds of decisions are never an easy choice. It's simple math: one (comparatively) well paid senior-level staffer's salary is equivalent to multiple salespeople's wages and like it or not, creatives do not bring in revenue - salespeople do by pounding the pavement and getting advertisers to advertise, plain and simple. And at this point, it's not about making a profit, it's probably come down to having the money to keep the lights on and the presses rolling..and I'm guessing even that is looking kinda iffy.

Philip Booth said...

Mark, I hear what you're saying, but ... get rid of the veteran staffers and ultimately won't have any content worth reading. And then the lights will go off and presses will stop rolling anyway.

Take this reader (me) as an example.

The only reason I have continued picking up CL lately, particularly after the paper made the lame decision to fire Lance Goldenberg (IMO one of the best film critics in Florida (and the Southeast), was to read Eric Snider and Wayne Garcia. Leilani does good work, too.

Now that Eric's gone, it's down to Wayne and Leilani. I'm guessing that some others feel the same way. Dump longtime, valuable staffers, and you dump readers, too. Advertisers follow out the door, and then the whole operation tumbles down.

Anonymous said...

I've know Eric professionally for more than a quarter century, and while we covered different musical landscapes, I always respected his talent and views. The big question, of course, is what will become of local arts organizations that need critical views, as well as press coverage that is so essential to positioning for state funding.
Kurt Loft, former classical music critic with The Tampa Tribune

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this mindset prevails at newspapers throughout the U.S. where, since the 1970s, the bottom line is more important than the headline. Increasingly, it's also about graphics reigning over editorial copy. If a picture once was worth a thousand words, it now takes precedence over ten thousand.

In the meantime, the written word continues to be devalued online where everyone with a computer is s a "writer" and everyone with an opinion a "commentator."

Blog sites offer $4 for 500-word articles and kids with no education or training, but merely the need to see their name as a byline, accept the offer, selling out established wordsmiths long since laid off.

Those writers still onboard, or recent hires, must not only write but design, post to the 'net and take photos, ensuring a sloppy publication in which nothing is done well. And all this for $20-$25K annually. Barely enough to support oneself, much less a family.

And to think it all began when newspapers stopped being a community service and just another business... run by bean counters. Little does it matter whether the product is a newspaper or toilet paper. It's all the same to owners and editors with no journalism background.

I weep for this country, well on its way to having the most uneducated and ill-informed population in the developed world.

Philip Booth said...

Anonymous - True all of dat!

THANKS for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Nope - Eric was a terrible writer who was obsessed with stirring things up and maintaining an image of cool. He was never gutsy in his reviews and always predictable in his prose.

Philip Booth said...

hi, Anonymous.

Eric Terrible? No. Quite the contrary.

Obsessed with stirring things up? Not really, but that's actually a good trait for a writer.

Never gutsy, always predictable?

You must be thinking about another music writer.

But if you'd like to offer evidence supporting your claims - go for it!

Meanwhile, kudos to all those pop music critics who continue to open their ears to music beyond the Top 40 (and beyond "American Idol" and the Disney Channel).

And kudos to all those pop music critics who write intelligently and thoughtfully about the music - d'oh! - and don't operate under the illusion that they are beloved celebrities in the making.

There's a whole wide world of great music out there. It's too bad that so many daily newspapers have allowed their music coverage to be transformed into infotainment, contrived to appeal strictly to tweens and 20somethings.

Music junkies want, and deserve, better.