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Readers want San Diego Union-Tribune to reinstate art critic Robert Pincus

July 7, 2010 | 11:23 am

Pincus In June, the San Diego Union-Tribune issued a pink slip to Robert L. Pincus, its art critic and book editor who has covered the city's art scene for close to 25 years. It was part of company-wide layoffs that eliminated 35 newsroom jobs. 

Since then, the newspaper has seen a public backlash over Pincus' termination, with online campaigns and  other forums demanding that it reinstate the art critic.

As reported by Modern Art Notes, there is a Facebook campaign and a blog devoted to bringing back Pincus. In addition, media outlets such as radio station KPBS and the San Diego Reader have devoted time and space in support of the critic.

On his own Facebook page, Pincus has commented that "the layoff was a shock, after 25 years of writing at the U-T. But the new publisher and editor apparently care little about the quality of the art writing. So they eliminated my position in their reorganization."

He also wrote that the newspaper's arts reporting and criticism "can't be done with smoke and mirrors, no matter what the editor says about maintaining art coverage."

Before joining the Union-Tribune, Pincus contributed arts stories to the Los Angeles Times during the early 1980s.

The creator of the Facebook campaign and the blog, Roxana Popescu, was quoted by Modern Art Notes as saying that the aims of the sites are to "allow people to voice their support and concerns, and to alert the decision makers at the newspaper that San Diegans care deeply about the arts — and want Bob back.”

KPBS' Angela Carone wrote that the "great irony is that Pincus' departure comes at a time when San Diego's visual arts scene seems to be heading into some kind of renaissance. Galleries and art collectives are popping up everywhere. The city's contemporary art museum is currently host to an exhibit of 45-plus San Diego artists."

Jeff Light, the editor at the Union-Tribune, has been quoted in the San Diego Reader as saying that the newspaper is currently profitable. In the same interview, he said the newspaper will not have entry-level reporters covering the visual arts and that he intends to use freelancers more often.

Light joined the Union-Tribune in early 2010 after having worked at the Orange County Register and its parent company for more than 15 years. Light did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Pincus has been busy on Twitter, and you can follow him @rlpincus.

-- David Ng

Photo: Robert Pincus. Credit: Robert Pincus via Modern Art Notes

Comments () | Archives (4)

As a member of the Facebook group that is asking for Bob Pincus to be reinstated, I can tell you that the San Diego Arts community in appalled at how this all went down. When the previous owner of the Union/Tribune began selling off the company piece meal and then sailing off to the French Rivera on his obscenely over-sized yacht, many of us got a bad, sinking feeling.

When the new owners took over, no one had any idea that a slaughter would take place of the finest writers and critics in the city. Balancing the newspaper books on the backs of articulate and erudite pundits is not a good business plan in my book. Robert Pincus has previously lectured at the University of San Diego and holds a PH.D. Replacing him with someone just out of journalism school to save money is fool-hardy and short-sighted at best.

Robert Pincus has had a hand in bringing to light and attention many different kinds of art work that most U/T readers might never have discovered. His writing style is inclusive and never condescending-even when discussing quite lofty concepts. I , myself felt a close kinship to Bob Pincus when I read his moving piece in the U/T after the passing of artist and writer Manny Farber. Though very sad at the demise of this great film writer, conceptual artist and wonderful UCSD professor, Bob wrote so wonderfully of the full artistic life Manny had led, that it brought such cheer to my pulverized heart I shall never forget.

I would respectfully suggest, should the honorable LA Times be in need of a great writer and art critic, Robert Pincus would surely fit the bill for you. If not, watch our little Facebook group as we agitate and muster together for his (hoped for) re-employment.

Bob Pincus is a Renaissance man living a burg of Kinkades and Wylands.

San Diego is a backwater of crab shacks and jarheads, and that's all it'll ever be. Too bad.

The one bright spot in an otherwise mediocre newspaper; The SD Union-Tribune, were the art critiques of Robert Pincus. Culture has always taken a back seat in San Diego & The Tribune's true color's have now been revealed. Profit over quality, shame on the SD Union-Tribune.

I agree with the comments of Gail Powell and Don Adams regarding Robert Pincus' firing at the SD Union-Tribune. Bob was a truly enlightening arts writer that many of us regularly followed. He was generous and humble, and very fair-minded in his art reviews. The editors of the U-T have made a huge mistake by thinking that James (Jim) Chute can write about arts like Bob.Jeff Light and his OC crew do not know San Diego, let alone their readership. Due to this stupid firing, I have cancelled my U-T sub after 25-plus years. I feel confident that Bob will land on his feet somewhere that has great appreciation of his knowledge. Thank you Bob for the many great stories you shared with your readers!


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