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CityBeat closure silences more critical voices in the arts

March 27, 2009 |  2:46 pm

Citybeat

The alternative weekly publication Los Angeles CityBeat will discontinue publishing, Bruce Bolkin, president of parent company Southland Publishing, Inc., said in a memo today.

The end of the publication will -- at least temporarily -- silence more critical voices on arts and entertainment in Los Angeles, including culture writer Alan Rich, former music critic for LA Weekly, who only recently began writing for CityBeat, and theater critic Don Shirley, a former Los Angeles Times staff writer.

Earlier this year, LA Weekly eliminated the position of theater editor and critic held by Steven Leigh Morris, although Morris continues to contribute to theater coverage for that publication on a freelance basis. As we reported in Culture Monster in January, at the time that LA Weekly cut Morris loose, the Los Angeles Daily News had dropped theater critic and writer Evan Henerson.

Shirley said he received a copy of the Bolkin memo in an e-mail this morning, topped with a few words from CityBeat Publisher Will Swaim:

Guys:

Sorry to be the bearer (and recipient) of this bad news: we’re closing.

Thanks very much for your diligent work. You made the paper great.

--will

When asked for comment on how the closure would affect theater coverage as a whole in Los Angeles, Shirley said...

"So much of it was said when Steven Leigh Morris was laid off, although he's doing exactly the same work he was doing beforehand; I don't have that option here, because the paper is closing. Most of it has been said ad nauseam."

Continued Shirley: "I was going [to the theater] between six and eight times a week, most weeks, and I was doing everything -- no one else was doing theater for CityBeat."

Said Rich in an e-mail to The Times: "The absurdity of this latest shutdown is that it's happening exactly as classical life in Los Angeles zooms skyward in importance, controversy and excitement: the "Ring" at the Opera, the changing  of the guard at the Philharmonic, the emergence of the Colburn School, the new halls in Orange County. Measure this against the reduction of independent music criticism to absolute zero, and even the newspaper staff depleted, and you come up with something perilously between irony and disaster. "

The full memo from Bolkin:

March 27, 2009

It is with great regret that as of the March 26, 2009 issue, Southland Publishing, Inc. has decided to discontinue publishing the Los Angeles CityBeat alternative weekly publication.

For 6 years, the Los Angeles CityBeat has offered a fresh perspective to the readers of Los Angeles, and Southland is extremely proud of its writers and entire staff who have contributed to the paper.

We want to thank our readers and advertisers for their support.

Southland Publishing, Inc. continues to publish the Pasadena Weekly, Ventura County Reporter, San Diego CityBeat, Inland Empire Weekly, and the monthly magazines Life After50, Ventana and Arroyo.

Bruce Bolkin

President

Southland Publishing, Inc.

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: Partygoers celebrate the launch of two new alternative publications, CityBeat and ValleyBeat, at the Larchmont in L.A. in 2003. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times.

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