- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Fledgling performer quickly becomes a star

Arts coverage was part of the opening scene when The Washington Times made its debut in 1982. Although multiple cast and costume changes have come since the days of the founding, artful presentation of arts and entertainment in The Times is still at center stage.
The Times from the beginning displayed a distinctive, award-winning verbal and visual approach whether leaping in praise of the Washington Ballet, lamenting the lack of real laughs in a Hollywood comedy, painting an impression of an exhibition at the Phillips Collection or dramatically describing the shortfalls of a theatrical production at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Crisp coverage and criticism of arts and entertainment in the weekday features pages nurtured and served with an attitude in the late 1980s under features editor and Critic at Large columnist John Podhoretz expanded dramatically in September 1991 when The Times added a separate arts section, first on Sundays and, as of April 1999, on Saturdays a day ahead of The Washington Post.
The Times received the equivalent of a nationwide standing ovation in 1993, under features editor Ken McIntyre and arts editor Robin Berkowitz, when it captured a first-place award from the National Newspaper Association for coverage of the performing arts. In 1994, three critics for The Times competed against one another as finalists for the arts criticism award of the Society of Professional Journalists in Washington.
Since the mid-1980s, artist John Kascht's illustrations and page designs consistently have caught the eyes of the judges in prestigious newspaper contests.
Today, readers also keep attuned to national and regional entertainment in the Life pages and prepare for the weekend on Thursday (again a day before the competition) with Washington Weekend, the popular tabloid section that sports a crowded calendar of cultural and recreational options.
Senior film critic Gary Arnold continues to draw upon a vast knowledge of movies and a heart for family values as he focuses on what's playing on the big screen, interviews Hollywood greats and not-so-greats and chronicles cinematic trends.
Art critic Joanna Shaw-Eagle combines long familiarity with the Washington arts scene and a background in Western and Far Eastern art history, and her coverage of the museums and galleries is widely regarded as the best in town. Theater critic Jayne M. Blanchard has broad experience covering stage productions in several metropolitan areas.
Dance critic Jean Battey Lewis, a dancer herself, brings a performer's insights into her coverage of groups ranging from the American Ballet Theatre to the Washington Ballet. Classical music critic T.L. Ponick offers a knowledgeable appreciation of productions of the Washington Opera and other organizations.
These critics along with Gabriella Boston, Ann Geracimos, Christian Toto and Jen Waters follow in the authoritative arts tradition of Hap Erstein, Octavio Roca, Eric Gibson, Rick Marin, Rod Dreher, Sean Piccoli, Josef Adalian and Patrick Butters. Arts editor Susan Beving follows such gifted, award-winning editors and writers as Alan McConagha, Deborah Simmons and Cathryn Donohoe.


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