Can the Guardian recover from the loss of Lyn Gardner?

Renowned journalist and theatre critic Lyn Gardner has recently had her contract with the Guardian slashed on the account of monetary cuts. While she will continue to write reviews and features for the Guardian, her consistent blogs will no longer be published despite their exploration of and relevance to today’s theatre. Admirers of Gardner’s work have rallied on Twitter, expressing their sincere regrets at the “massive loss” to journalism. Yet, it seems that while the Guardian have attempted to reduce costs, they have also inadvertently created a loss that they will perpetually struggle, and inevitably fail, to recover from.

Gardner has been vocal about the loss of her contract: “My blogs amounted to about 130,000 words about theatre, and that platform is now gone. I don’t think it is personal, it is to do with the fact that the Guardian is in a dire situation and our future is in peril. Many people in the arts value the Guardian but if they want us to continue then they also have to support the Guardian. I have written about funding, how theatre operates, diversity, and tried to reflect the vibrancy and broad range of activity that takes place in theatre. I have been quite tearful and immensely touched by the reaction on Twitter, it is a momentous feeling to know that you are valued.”

Perhaps Gardner’s dismissal isn’t personal, but it is striking that one of the foremost UK newspapers, and self-proclaimed ‘world’s leading liberal voice’, is in such crisis that it must revoke the contract of such an integral writer of the arts. It seems rather ridiculous to sever the contract of such a popular and talented arts’ critic when the loss will be so damaging in comparison to their slight gain. The Guardian’s decision to retain Gardner’s contract on at least some form illustrates that her flair and genius as a journalist cannot be lost altogether.

Playwright Simon Stephens applauded Gardner’s work as her blog “has been a rare corner of real thought about our art form,” and that “To lose it and her intelligence is a massive loss.” Artistic director Paul Miller also lamented the injury and declared that it was a “really bad call” for the Guardian to dismiss “an invaluable ongoing audit of our strengths and weaknesses in UK theatre.”

Forty theatres have lobbied to reinstate Gardner’s position at the Guardian and petitions have sprung up to recover Gardner’s contract. Lyn Gardner has wrought a style and critique that has been wretchedly discarded. Her brilliance is an acute loss to artistic journalism that will echo and reverberate across all creative platforms. However, it is likely the Guardian that will suffer even more than that as they experience the keen stab of remorse when they realise their grievous mistake.

Stephanie Bennett

Image Courtesy: The Guardian

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