It has been exactly one month since JazzTimes magazine issued a terse statement acknowledging “temporary suspension” and a staff furlough while management made its pitch to potential investors. The following week, at the Jazz Journalists Association’s annual awards ceremony, it won Periodical of the Year for the 11th consecutive time. (No other publication has ever won.) I accepted the award on behalf of the magazine, reading another terse statement -- this one signed, by editor-in-chief Lee Mergner -- and gamely attempting to defuse some of the palpable tension in the room.
Like many other former JT contributors, I’m still awaiting payment for months’ worth of published material. Howard Mandel, president of the JJA -- and the blogger whose pointed musings at Jazz Beyond Jazz apparently pressured JT management into making its announcement -- has taken up the cause of these outstanding payments. Sadly, similar scenes have played out all across the desiccated print media landscape in 2009. If you follow these things, you know that Blender and VIBE were among the other prominent extinctions in recent months. (I had occasion to write for both.) Then there's Performing Songwriter, and Traps, and... well, you get the picture.
And while Death of Journalism stories cast the issue in abstract terms, I’ll state the obvious and say that livelihoods were involved. Whatever your opinion of JT -- and by all means, sound off in the comments -- the people whose work filled its pages were engaged in honest work. Well, work, anyway. (I kid, I kid.) Speaking for myself, it was a pleasure to be a JazzTimes contributor over the last eight years, and a columnist for the last five. Until the recent meltdown, I had only positive experiences, particularly with the editorial staff, which included Mergner, current (former) managing editor Evan Haga, and Evan’s predecessor, Christopher Porter, who brought me aboard.
I really do hope that JT strikes a deal with new ownership, though that possibility feels increasingly remote. In the meantime, this blog is one visible manifestation of my post-JT flailings. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s a real replacement, even though my enthusiasms as a blogger are considerable. (Ethan Iverson has a more sanguine view, and he may well be right, though I disagree with his suspicion that JT became a promotional tool of the jazz-education industrial complex. Dave Douglas also recently sounded off on this topic, more from a musician standpoint.) Anyway: at week’s end I’ll post my last, unpublished Gig column, involving a Sexy! Youth-Oriented! topic.
And because I believe in closing on a positive note, I should mention that Mandel won a 2009 JJA award for Blog of the Year, and that I was fortunate enough to receive the Helen Dance–Robert Palmer Award for Review and Feature Writing. Generous coverage of the awards ceremony, complete with photos, is here (PDF).