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Staff shifts at 77 Square will mean fewer film and arts reviews; more changes coming for Capital Times

Post by Christie Taylor on 2/6/2013 10:00am

Starting this past week, Madison arts enthusiasts will see fewer reviews and a generally slimmer 77 Square, the arts section for Madison’s Capital Newspapers readers. Officially a division of The Capital Times, 77 Square articles appear in their own corner of, and in a weekly tabloid-style print insert to the Wisconsin State Journal that can also be found free and a la carte at some newspaper stands. Collectively, writers Rob Thomas, Lindsay Christians, and Andy Downing have previewed and reviewed concerts, restaurants, films, gallery shows, and covered major news events in the city’s arts landscape.

Film writer Rob Thomas has already moved to the position of social media editor, and “will no longer be regularly reviewing movies for us,” Capital Times Managing Editor Chris Murphy said in an e-mail to Dane101. However, Murphy said, his film expertise would be drawn on “for occasional stories.” Meanwhile, writers Lindsay Christians, who covers dining and fine arts, and Andy Downing, who covers music, will no longer be confined to the arts beat, and will write a broader range of stories for the Capital Times website. Murphy said the paper would still “make full use of their expertise covering the arts, music, theater and dining.”

Murphy said the changes to the paper would mean readers would see less routine coverage, and “a bit slimmer” print edition of 77 Square. He said the “best and most creative” pieces, though, would be redirected to the Capital Timesown site and paper. “We see what Madisonians do with their free time as one of the essential pillars of our coverage, and the arts, theater, music and film are a huge part of that,” Murphy said.

Murphy declined to give further details, such as which arts stories would get priority over general assignment writing or whether 77 Square would continue to be available free and a la carte, saying the changes were part of a bigger shift to reposition the entire Capital Times, “in a very good way,” he said. “It’s a long process, still underway.” He said he did not want to undermine that effort by speaking too soon.

These changes come five years after the debut of 77 Square, when The Capital Times switched from Monday - Friday print publication to primarily online (at in spring of 2008. 

Meg Hamel, who has worked with the Wisconsin Film Festival since its third year in 2001, said she was disappointed to hear about the loss of Thomas' film coverage. She said she thought “enthusiastic coverage” by print media had been a factor in the early success of the Wisconsin Film Festival, and would continue to be important to independent series such as UW-Madison’s Cinematheque.  

“I have been a huge fan and supporter of the reporters who have helped the Madison audience explore and enjoy movies which have played here,” Hamel said. “Now that access to global film criticism and commentary is available to everyone with an Internet connection, the need for a local voice--to interpret and explain and encourage through the lens of our community--seems to be even more important.” 

“It’s similar to why I’d rather eat dinner at a restaurant that is cooking from scratch, over going to a chain. More of the character of my city and my neighbors will be found in that experience.”

Christie Taylor


Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at