By their very nature, birthdays and anniversaries tend to inspire reflection. As I pondered the 10th anniversary of SFGN, I was quickly reminded of the big changes in the journalism world—especially in the arts—since I began writing in South Florida more than a decade ago.
When I started, it was not uncommon to encounter four, five or more critics at the latest regional theater premiere. I’m not talking about just the glitzy, big budget Broadway touring shows at the Broward Center or the Arsht Center, but the more modest productions at the local companies in Coral Gables and Coral Springs, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and all points in between.
In those days, the Miami Herald still employed a full-time theater critic, Pulitzer Prize panelist Christine Dolen. Bill Hirschman wrote reviews for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and young Brandon K. Thorp of the New Times contributed sardonic criticism from a Millennial perspective years before Millennials were even a thing. Mary Damiano, a fixture in South Florida’s arts scene, wrote for LGBT and straight publications, and then there was me, the SFGN arts editor for nearly 10 years.
Later, Hirschman would launch the website Florida Theater on Stage, the Sun Sentinel would move fashion editor Rod Stafford Hagwood into a new role that included more arts criticism and John Thomason began writing exciting reviews for Boca magazine and other local publications.
Coverage abounded and local theater professional Christopher Jahn even created a website specifically to critique the critics. Jahn never pulled any punches, applying a sarcastic and sometimes cynical analysis to our weekly pieces, even yours truly. It became a weekly ritual for our little cadre of critics to see what he would have to say.
Then the media landscape changed. As the dailies started to shrink and the smaller outlets suffered in the wake of the Great Recession, the rich coverage South Florida arts organizations came to take for granted began to dwindle. Longtime critics and arts writers were pink-slipped or forced into early retirement.
Journalists moved on or, at best, found opportunities to practice their craft in a much more limited basis for the new nonprofit media organizations that would attempt to fill the gap. Social media analytics began dictating editorial decisions. Struggling theater companies were lucky to get any coverage at all and many vanished, too.
Fortunately, SFGN has maintained a commitment to support the South Florida arts community—both gay and straight, but especially our LGBT artists.
It’s easy to take for granted that South Florida can support three theater companies that emphasize LGBT-themed works, two LGBT visual arts organizations, four gay men’s choruses, a fine LGBT concert band and more. You will be hard pressed to find one gay men’s chorus, let alone LGBT theater, art and music in most cities.
In the good old days, mainstream outlets tried to muscle in, seeking that pink advertising dollar, but once again, it’s resilient LGBT outlets that remain. We supported our community before and we will survive long after.
Every week in the print edition and our website, readers find feature stories about upcoming shows and the local artists who create them, along with thoughtful reviews and suggestions for the next hot weekend ticket.
As we move into our 11th year, I’m grateful that publishers Norm Kent and Piero Guidugli are committed to making SFGN your source for the most comprehensive, informative and entertaining arts news available.