The Enquirer Cuts Last Arts Writer

Sep 20, 2017

And then there were none.

Classical music reporter Janelle Gelfand was one of at least four Enquirer newsroom employees to lose their jobs Tuesday, the last of the Enquirer's arts writers.

Gelfand, who chose to go part-time to spend more time with her grandchildren and mother a few years ago, was told her position was eliminated on Tuesday --  2-1/2 weeks before the grand reopening of Music Hall. She had been writing about Music Hall and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Pops Orchestra before joining the Arts & Entertainment staff full-time in 1993.

Also gone are reporter and former columnist Chris Graves; reporter Shauna Steigerwald who covered entertainment, craft beer, the zoo, and cool homes; and longtime Community Press suburban weeklies planner/editor Dick Maloney, according to my sources in the Enquirer's building at 312 Elm St. They were local victims in Gannett's 1 percent nationwide budget cut reported last week. The cuts came a week after Editor Peter Bhatia left for the Detroit Free Press. He has not been replaced.

In the past year, Steigerwald and food writer Polly Campbell were moved to the Real Time News team. Arts writer Carol Motsinger became a general features writer. That left Features Planning Editor/Community Content Specialist Rasputin Todd with no full-time staff writers under his supervision to fill the Sunday A&E section and Friday Weekend section. Almost all theater and music coverage has been provided by freelance writers David Lyman, Chris Varias and Bill Thompson.

At the end of 2014, the A&E staff took a major hit after management eliminated/changed all the beats when we had to re-apply for our jobs. With no TV/Media beat, I left the paper after nearly 40 years. So did A&E editor Tasha Stewart and arts writer Julie Engebrecht. Earlier that year the paper let go homes writer Brent Coleman and web editor Stephanie Pross.  Already gone was Theater critic Jackie Demaline.

If I say so myself, we did a lot of great work covering the Arts &Entertainment of Cincinnati for decades. (I left the newsroom to be Features Editor 1982-85, before stepping down to become TV columnist.) The Sunday A&E section was a destination for readers.

We told stories about local musicians, artists, dancers, actors, benefactors and other creative people and their organizations that you didn't see on TV or often read about in other publications.  We wrote about the people and places which make Cincinnati such a vibrant, stimulating, fun place to live.

We were the guardians and advocates for Cincinnati's arts scene, and we took our job as seriously as the local news reporters across the room. Hard news editors at The Enquirer like to boast about the paper's watchdog role -- and the A&E writers were just as vigilant covering issues at Music Hall, the Cincinnati Art Museum, ArtsWave, Cincinnati Museum Center, the Aronoff Center, the public broadcasters, Playhouse in the Park, Riverbend and many other cultural, arts and entertainment institutions. We asked the tough questions about leadership, audience trends, revenues and programming, along with cranking out season overviews, personality profiles, upcoming show previews, calendar items and reviews.

At the peak, the Enquirer had a Theater critic, Art critic, Movie critic, Food critic, Food editor, Classical Music critic, Pop Music Critic, Book Editor, Travel Editor and a general features writer/columnist in Jim Knippenberg – and our own copy desk and assistant editors.  Among my coworkers were Owen Findsen, Cliff Radel, Margaret McGurk, Sara Pearce, Tom McElfresh, Chuck Martin, Lauren Bishop, Larry Nager, Ray Cooklis, Tom Brinkmoeller, Steve Hoffman, Martin Hogan Jr., Rosemary Munsen, Jim DeBrosse, Mike McLeod, and Joe DeChick.

And then there were none.