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2013 Chicago Jazz Festival: Chicago Tribune won't let facts intrude

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The jazz critic over at the Chicago Tribune must have his proponents – I may have even met a couple – and he clearly has the support of his editors: few if any newspapers in the country devote as much space to the coverage of jazz as the Tribune.

Since I chair the Programming Committee for the Chicago Jazz Festival, you can imagine that I wholly disagree with the barrage of criticism that the Tribune jazz critic aims in our direction whenever the opportunity arises. But, since I am so closely involved – and proudly so, given the accolades the Festival has earned from musicians and writers around the world – I usually deem it inappropriate to counter these criticisms in print.

What I do think appropriate, though, is to point out bad reporting – as in sloppy, lazy, perhaps malicious – and to correct outright falsehoods when they appear in print.

And in that vein, I urge you to consider the comments about the Festival in the January 2 article entitled “Jazz resolutions for a New Year.” In reprising his annual complaint about the Festival concept – a variety of artists on multiple stages, in the classic jazz festival model that remains favored at festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe – the paper’s jazz critic writes, “Perhaps the Chicago Jazz Festival’s ancient formula helps explain why its budget steadily declines.”

In fact, however, the Festival’s programming budget has not "steadily decline[d]," and has actually increased for the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival – a development that forcefully counters such complaints about the Festival’s “ancient formula.” A phone call or e-mail – to either the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (which produces the Festival) or the Jazz Institute of Chicago (which oversees its programming) – would have quickly unearthed this piece of information.

Once upon a time, when the Tribune still ran on journalistic principles, such phone calls were expected and demanded. These days, however – at least when it comes to covering jazz – the Tribune seems unwilling to let facts destroy a carefully constructed fiction.