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Museum directors protest layoff of LA Times arts reporter

Thumbnail image for jroi-finkel-salcido-zocalo.jpgThe heads of more than a dozen top Southern California institutions signed a letter to Times editor Davan Maharaj objecting to last week's layoff of Calendar reporter Jori Finkel. The Hammer's Ann Philbin is the top signatory, and she is joined by Jim Cuno of the Getty Trust, Michael Govan of LACMA and others who Finkel has written about. "It is especially unfortunate to see you dismiss your only staff reporter specializing in art now that Los Angeles is increasingly recognized worldwide as the most influential center for contemporary art and culture," the letter says. Finkel joined the Times in 2010 to cover arts and architecture. Here's the note:

Subject: Letter from Southern California Museum Directors

Mr. Davan Maharaj
Los Angeles Times

Dear Mr. Maharaj,

We were dismayed to learn that your art reporter, Jori Finkel, was let go in the Los Angeles Times’ most recent round of layoffs. We are writing to you now to share our deep concerns about this decision and to call for the reinstatement of this position.

Jori is the go-to source here for art-world news and analysis, with articles that are consistently insightful and accessible and a byline that is read around the world. Her early coverage in 2011 of the Getty’s ambitious $10-million Pacific Standard Time initiative and the many collaborating museum exhibitions helped to shape much of the national and international coverage that followed. Since then, she has been breaking major museum news and writing must-read artist profiles, informed by a broad understanding of art history and the current scene as well as the art market. These stories give context for reviews by the paper’s critics – Christopher Knight most notably. Jori’s work and that of the critics go hand-in-hand to provide a sophisticated and robust picture of Los Angeles’s ever-expanding art scene.

It is especially unfortunate to see you dismiss your only staff reporter specializing in art now that Los Angeles is increasingly recognized worldwide as the most influential center for contemporary art and culture. For instance, just as she was being laid off, the New York Times dedicated nearly three full pages to L.A.’s significance within the international art world. Without a dedicated art reporter the competitive positioning of the paper is seriously undermined. (It's also worth noting that some of the potential buyers of the L.A. Times are art collectors and follow arts news with special interest.)

Art and culture also have a serious economic impact on this city. According to the most recent Otis Report on the Creative Economy, one in eight regional jobs in L.A. and Orange County are generated by the creative industry, which has a total economic output of over $230 billion annually. The visual arts in Southern California have proven particularly rich, varied and impactful. Certainly a world-class city with world-class art deserves a newspaper that fully understands that impact.

As Los Angeles Times readers and advertisers, we expect more from the paper. Moving forward we hope that the L.A. Times restores this important position and better recognizes its responsibility to cover the art and culture that shapes our creative city.

Ann Philbin
Director, Hammer Museum

Jim Cuno
President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust

Timothy Potts
Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum

Michael Govan
CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Jeffrey Deitch
Director, Museum of Contemporary Art

Steven Koblik
President, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Kevin Salatino
Director of the Art Collections, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Marla Berns
Shirley & Ralph Shapiro Director, Fowler Museum at UCLA

Elsa Longhauser
Executive Director, Santa Monica Museum of Art

Charmaine Jefferson
Executive Director, California African American Museum

Joanne Heyler
Director/Chief Curator, The Broad Art Foundation

Dennis Szakacs
Director and CEO, Orange County Museum of Art

Hugh Davies
The David C. Copley Director, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Steven Nash
Director, Palm Springs Art Museum

Larry J. Feinberg
Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director and CEO, Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Previously on LA Observed:
Q&A with arts writer Jori Finkel

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