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Published: 15 Aug 2021. Updated: 34 days.

Rethink needed over jazz coverage in the UK papers

A lot of change has taken place in the written word coverage of jazz in newspapers over recent years. It has certainly got a lot worse to the point of invisibility. Gone are the days when you could easily find regular reviews in the main titles. …

Published: 15 Aug 2021. Updated: 34 days.

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A lot of change has taken place in the written word coverage of jazz in newspapers over recent years. It has certainly got a lot worse to the point of invisibility. Gone are the days when you could easily find regular reviews in the main titles. That needs to change. And there is an opportunity as the live scene continues to surge back. But first of all the picture. Looking at individual titles:

The Guardian.

Worse than ever in recent years and most concerning because of its historic support of the music. Jazz is lost within its music coverage every week. Most coverage is on Fridays or online and that is tiny. Their best writer John Fordham is given hardly any space. Occasionally other writers are used but it is patchy and they often do not have the authority that Fordham and writers of his calibre bring to the table. Suggestions? A commitment for a dedicated jazz blog among the online music coverage in addition to a weekly column in print. Bring in more new writers and give them a good go rotating new voices not just give one or two an occasional outing as now.

The Telegraph.

It's ridiculous that the main jazz writer Ivan Hewett is a classical writer first and foremost and seems to miss the point a lot of the times in his reviews possibly because of this. They need to hire someone new in addition who is a jazz writer first and if necessary a writer about something else second. However, it's not as if you turn to The Telegraph foraging for jazz coverage anyway. Let's be real. It's an empathy thing fundamentally. Build the empathy and the rest will follow. That applies across all the papers.

The Times.

The paper's best jazz writer Clive Davis is now writing mainly about theatre. It seems his jazz writing is put in as an after thought if at all and other writers are shunted online rather than given proper space in print. There is no parity of esteem. Bring on a new Clive Davis and give her/him space.

The Sunday Times.

Offers little coverage to jazz apart from a few words in a little cubby hole corner of reviews and very rarely selected as a main article. Always Cinderella to some supposed ''priority'' pop act that gets hyped too much because the section editors are in thrall to big record biz publicists.

The Financial Times.

The Pandemic has hit Mike Hobart's coverage hard because he excels at doing live reviews. That may improve in the autumn. Suggestion? Give him space for interviews or album reviews in greater quantity. Make free online a regular jazz column as a gift to the music the paper actually serves very well given it doesn't need to bother. They are more interested in a pharmaceutical company called Jazz or anything that solos on spreadsheet after all.

The Sun.

No coverage to speak of! Does that matter? Ask yourself do we really want headlines like ''Wynton Marsalis ate my hamster?''

The Express.

Who reads the Express? But seriously writing about jazz would make a change from their usual daft obsessions.

The Observer.

Dave Gelly's coverage is tiny and not that vital or relevant because he rarely tackles the must-hear albums really seizing the agenda instead preferring his long championed ''straightahead/mainstream/swing'' taste. The paper should offer more space to new writers in addition to his long-time presence.

The Mail.

No coverage to speak of in terms of proper reviews or anything much. A pity but then again not a surprise at all. But careful what you wish for. Imagine Sarah Vine reviewing a jazz gig. That's Project Fear.

The Mirror.

No must-read coverage to speak of or at all much. Again not a surprise. When they do music and just like The Guardian pop, rock and hip-hop comes first, second and third with other genres way down the agenda or not on it at all.

The Morning Star

The online version actually runs readable reviews on a semi-regular basis. A communist success story!

To read anything in quantity about jazz in any of these famous and long-established titles is not easy to hunt down. Buying a paper for jazz coverage is not worth the money at the moment anywhere. It used to be certainly in papers like The Guardian and The Times. Some titles who are commited to at least some coverage should do a rethink and actually state they care and declare a plan as a service to cater for a niche demographic however limited so readers actually can look out for it and begin to buy into their effort (eg a weekly, or fortnightly column for starters and stick to it rather than just float one-off reviews in now and then. A monthly Fordham column in The Guardian is simply not enough, however, and makes even the great JF let his eye drift off the ball).

The supreme irony is that these titles all have online offerings whether paid-for or free and yet jazz is often even less well-served than their print versions sometimes or just again neglected. That says it all and needs to be addressed by editors and their bosses even higher up the management chain. Don't hold your breath that it will but there's always hope of improvement and for the moment if the notion is even given a moment of consideration not merely a dream deferred or an idea kicked like a can down the road yet again.