MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Imagine you're a sports reporter in New York, and you've just been told you can't cover the Yankees. That's essentially what happened to a music critic at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Donald Rosenberg has covered the world-class Cleveland Orchestra for more than two decades. Two weeks ago, he was reassigned - some say, demoted. From member station WCPN in Cleveland, Dan Moulthrop reports on why that happened.
DAN MOULTHROP: For 28 years, Don Rosenberg has praised his hometown orchestra. But since the arrival of Franz Welser-Most in 2002, his reviews have been less than enthusiastic. Typical of his negative reviews was this evaluation after a performance of Mozart's symphony No. 28 last year. Rosenberg wrote 'Welser-Most's muddy textures, C major has rarely sounded so mirthless.' In a world of classical music, that's kind of a slam. On a sunny autumn day, Rosenberg is sitting on a stoop across the street from the Plain Dealer. He recounts his recent meeting with the paper's editor.
Mr. DON ROSENBERG (Music Critic): When I arrived at the conference room, Susan Goldberg, the editor of the Plain Dealer was sitting there and I sat down and she told me that they were going to make a change that I was no longer going to be covering the Cleveland Orchestra.
MOULTHROP: Rosenberg says Plain Dealer editor Susan Goldberg told him the paper's relationship with the orchestra had been untenable. When asked to elaborate on that, Goldberg told NPR it was a personnel matter and she couldn't comment. And that has left the door open for others to speculate on Goldberg's motives. Some critics, commentators, and bloggers have accused Goldberg of caving to pressure from the orchestra's backers who are a legion in this town. Former critic Tim Page teaches music and journalism at the University of Southern California.
Mr. TIM PAGE (Former Music Critic): We're hired to say what we think, but if there's going to be this perceived threat of censorship, it's really kind of shocking.
MOULTHROP: At least one former arts editor would disagree with that estimation. Charles Michener was the cultural editor for The New Yorker and Newsweek. In recent years, he has returned to his native Cleveland and followed the orchestra closely. He says there have long been basic problems with Rosenberg's criticism of the orchestra.
Mr. CHARLES MICHENER (Cultural Editor, The New Yorker and Newsweek): He has consistently said that the orchestra has maintained its greatness. My question is, how come the orchestra have maintained its greatness if their music director is so lousy?
MOULTHROP: Former New York Times critic and arts editor John Rockwell says the real problem is how Plain Dealer editors handled the re-assignment.
Mr. JOHN ROCKWELL (Former Critic): I mean if they didn't like Rosenberg, then they should have, you know, said 'Okay, Don. We love you. We want you to be the night copy editor and if you don't like it, leave.' But to somehow split up his job so that the Cleveland Orchestra's covered by one guy and all other music in town is covered by somebody else is A, weird; and B, so insulting to Rosenberg and so small town as far as the Plain Dealer is concerned.
MOULTHROP: For the time being, Rosenberg is staying in his current job as arts reporter. Meanwhile, the Plain Dealer's expected to announce more staffing cuts some time in October. For NPR News, I'm Dan Moulthrop in Cleveland.
BLOCK: This is NPR, National Public Radio.