Media people

Bad month for dance coverage

First Lewis Segal, now Laura Bleiberg at the Register. Memo via email from the Orange County paper's online features editor after the jump.

I am very sad to announce that Laura Bleiberg is leaving the Orange County Register after 18-1/2 years. She has decided it's time to go work more directly in the nonprofit arts world, helping local organizations seek support and funding. She will not be far away, though: she is joining South Coast Repertory as Associate Director of Development. This huge gain for the arts community is a huge loss for us because Laura has become such a well-respected arts reporter and dance critic in Southern California, helping elevate the Orange County Register's standing in various arts communities through her expert writing and community connections. She's brought people together, opened all our eyes to the vast amounts of creativity and innovation in Orange County, and also sought to improve things in our local arts communities by providing an honest, truthful look at problems. She's covered up-and-coming local dance groups like Backhausdance, and all the internationally famed companies, including the Bolshoi, the Kirov, Alvin Ailey, ABT. She's written business stories (on the market for Spanish-language video versions of popular movies) and metro stories on issues like the contentious merger of the Laguna Art Museum and the Newport Harbor Art Museum, which led to the formation of the OC Museum of Art.

She's written on national issues that affect us, like the fight against the obscenity clause that the National Endowment for the Arts included in its grant application in the early 1990s. And she was always ahead of the competition in her dogged coverage of the rise and fall of Ballet Pacifica, and unethical doings at Bowers Museum.

Laura was also a fellow at the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University from Sept. 2001 to June 2002, further boosting her knowledge, expertise and understanding of her beat. Quite impressive, especially when you consider one of her early assignments, after coming to the OCR from the former LA Herald Examiner, was covering a truck pull at Anaheim Stadium! ("CP Smith made me write a preview and then go and review it!" she recalls, with her characteristic good humor.)

She told me she's most proud of her investigative stories about the Bowers in the late 1990s, and her coverage of "what went wrong at Ballet Pacifica. I got e-mails from arts administrators around the country and also dancers came up and hugged me, thanking me for getting the truth out there."

Working here was her "dream job" -- "This is what I wanted to do since I was 15" -- so she definitely leaves with mixed emotions: "I am extremely privileged to have had the chance to do this and I mean that in complete sincerity."

Friday (tomorrow!) is her last day. To send her off in good spirits, we'll gather Friday after work at Jason's Downtown wine bar in Santa Ana for drinks and light appetizers:
We'll start at 6:30 p.m. I hope you can all drop by to wish Laura well in her new chapter of life.

Iris Yokoi
Online Editor
Features, Entertainment & Events

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