The Nov. 15 press release from local artist Bill Seitz delivers its message matter-of-factly: "Petition drive to request an Arts section in The Cincinnati Enquirer."
The purpose of Seitz's petition is fairly simple. He wants to let Enquirer administrators know there's a large number of people who are upset about recent reductions in the paper's arts coverage.
Seitz's goal is to collect at least 500 signatures by Dec. 31, when he'll take the petition to Enquirer editors. He hopes to begin a dialogue between the paper and the local arts community.
Many people in the arts community already know Seitz as the gallery director for The Carnegie in Covington. His job puts him in the position to be a sounding board, and what he's been hearing about The Enquirer hasn't been good. Basically, people are disgusted with diminished arts coverage.
"I'm not saying we have to be The New York Times," Seitz says. "But I look at what other regional papers are doing. I look at The Louisville Courier-Journal and see what it does.
All I know is what The Enquirer is doing now is a lame effort."
There's no doubt that The Enquirer covered the recent Big Pig Gig extensively. But Seitz believes other arts stories are just as worthy of in-depth coverage. Everyone talks about how the Symphony, Opera, Ballet and Playhouse in the Park make Cincinnati a better place to live than Midwestern peers like Columbus, Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Economically, the arts make a bigger impact than pro sports. Yet the arts are squeezed into a Sunday Enquirer section titled "Tempo & Taste."
Cynics will say that no number of petitions will ever change things at The Enquirer. Arts organizations that compete for coverage are reluctant to criticize the morning daily. The Cincinnati Post continues its long, slow death march. An alternative newsweekly like CityBeat can only offer so much arts coverage in a single issue.
No matter how much they might criticize The Enquirer, local arts groups still need the morning newspaper to promote them and their programming to the largest audience possible. Without a true competing daily newspaper, local arts organizations have nowhere else to turn. Despite this dilemma, Seitz still believes there's a possibility for improvement.
"People come up to me and say, 'You're wasting your time' or 'You're never going to change this place or this paper,' " he says. "But at the same time, they also tell me this petition needs to be done."
Seitz has given himself three more weeks to collect signatures. He hopes to schedule a meeting with Enquirer editors to discuss the petition. A more complete victory would be to open the Sunday paper and see an entire section exclusively devoted to arts coverage — something that exists in other comparable newspapers.
Still, Sara Pearce, Enquirer assistant managing editor for features, says weekly arts coverage has slightly increased due to additional space allocated on Thursdays.
"I'm a strong advocate of arts and entertainment coverage," Pearce says. "I think we do a good job. But I also think the arts community should be organized and should lobby. You don't get anything if you don't ask for it."
"Somewhere along the line, the arts community has given up on The Enquirer," Seitz says. "But The Enquirer has to realize that they're a community leader. They have a choice in helping to make this a world-class city, and the impact the cultural community has on people's lives is what makes Cincinnati world-class."
Seitz remains convinced that his petition can make an impact on The Enquirer. But it's something he can't do alone. Then again, it's not like he's asking for donations. All he wants is your signature — he'll take care of the rest.
Send your name and comments to Bill Seitz, 455 Milton St., Cincinnati, OH 45210; 513-421-7272; or [email protected].