New York Times Demotes a Critic — Who Also Happens to Be a ‘World Authority’ on the Beatles

Sep 5, 2012  •  Post A Comment

The New York Times has demoted one of its critics, writes Norman Lebrecht at the Arts Journal blog Slipped Disc.

Lebrecht writes: "The move has nothing to do with the quality of Times journalism. It is rooted entirely in the poison of internal politics."

The critic involved is now former music critic Allan Kozinn,  who began freelancing for The Times in 1977 and joined the staff at the paper in 1991. He often writes about classical music.

Lebrecht notes that Kozinn is also  "a world authority on the Beatles (interest declared: I [Lebrecht] commissioned his best-selling book on the subject). Jon Pareles, the newspaper’s chief pop critic, said, in a 1989 Juilliard lecture: ‘The Times is the only newspaper in the world with a Beatles Desk, and it’s in the classical department.’ Sir Paul McCartney told me: ‘He knows it all.’ "

Kozinn has written a few books about the Fab Four, including "The Beatles: From the Cavern to the Rooftop."

So how come Kozinn was busted from being a music critic back to being a reporter on the culture beat as of yesterday, Sept. 4, 2012?

Here’s Lebrecht’s take: "The reasons are purely internal. Culture Editor Jon Landman knows he has a problem in the classical department. The chief critic Anthony Tommasini is thought to have failed to win the confidence of New York’s opinion formers. Moves are said to be afoot to hire Zachary Woolfe as Tommasini’s sidekick and, eventually, his successor. Landman has been heard to say that ‘Zach is the most important thing that has happened to classical music in a long time’ (sic). He needed to create a vacancy for Woolfe to be hired, so Kozinn had to go.

"When push came to shove, Kozinn’s superiors vanished into thin air. The Classical Music Editor, James Oestreich, has a 33-year friendship with Kozinn, going back to the days when Kozinn and other writers walked off High Fidelity magazine when Oestreich got the push."

What makes this story particularly fascinating for both Times watchers and those interested in the politics of journalism in general is the quality of the informed comments — and there are about 100 of them — that accompany Lebrecht’s posting. We urge you to click on the link above and peruse them.

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