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Editor’s View: The Guardian cutting Lyn Gardner shows theatre must be prepared to pay for quality journalism

Lyn Gardner. Photo: The Stage/Catherine Gerbrands Lyn Gardner. Photo: The Stage/Catherine Gerbrands
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Lyn Gardner’s departure from the Guardian after 23 years has sent a shockwave through the theatre world. While at the Guardian, she has been at the vanguard of changes to the way theatre is made and watched in the UK.

While observing those changes, Lyn has also helped mould and direct them through her informed criticism and comment. I cannot think of many other critics who retain such deep respect within the theatremaking community, while keeping the detachment required to be a trustworthy, independent observer.

She is part of a select group (including writers at The Stage such as Natasha Tripney, Mark Shenton and Sam Marlowe) who are happy to put in the legwork, travelling up and down the country to see shows in all types of performance space and championing new artists. Meanwhile, she provided a voice (and a taste) that nicely complemented the paper’s other superb critic, Michael Billington.

I cannot believe the Guardian is unaware of this. Despite its assurances that the move is part of a decision to “add some new voices” to its arts coverage, this makes me suspect that the decision is more about cost-cutting.

If theatre values expert voices, it needs to put its money where its mouth is

If that is the case, I have some sympathy. It has become increasingly difficult to make journalism pay. There will be outrage on Twitter at the news that Lyn has not had her contract renewed. There will be talk of boycotting the Guardian. But if theatre values expert voices, it needs to put its money where its mouth is. Readers who want to read informed comment from writers of this calibre must be prepared to pay for it and advertisers must direct their advertising to platforms that support it.

This is not a new model – it is how newspapers have worked for centuries. As a commenter put it on Twitter recently: “[I am] wearying of people complaining about journalism being ‘behind the paywall’ as though it’s a new evil elitism. Papers used to be in a shop called a ‘newsagent’ and if you wanted to read the news you bought one. Radical.”

You may be reading this in print, on a computer screen or a mobile phone but, whichever platform you choose, quality journalism needs to be paid for.

If you already subscribe, thank you for your support. But if you don’t and you want to carry on reading quality writers like Lyn in five, 10 or 50 years’ time, please consider replacing a couple of morning coffees a month with a subscription to The Stage. It only costs from £3.97 a month and ensures we can continue providing a platform for writers like Lyn.

Read more from Lyn Gardner

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