The San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation will help pay for Zoe Madonna to be a music critic at the newspaper for 10 months.

Share story

As media coverage of classical music continues a decadeslong diminuendo across the United States, The Boston Globe is trying something new: On Monday it announced a pilot program in which a consortium of nonprofit groups would help it pay for a critic.

The groups — the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation — will help The Globe pay for Zoe Madonna to be a music critic at the newspaper for 10 months, beginning Monday. The consortium said that the Globe would retain complete editorial control over her assignments and her work.

The arrangement, which could expand to other papers if it is successful, is seen as a potential way to halt the erosion of classical music criticism in America, where many magazines and newspapers no longer employ classical critics and, increasingly, no longer review classical music. The situation has been something of a vicious cycle: If the trend began because general interest in classical music was shrinking, many arts groups now fear that the disappearance of media coverage is hastening that decline.

“I hope The Globe’s willingness to partner with us will be a model for other newspapers across the land,” Stephen Rubin, the president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co. and the founder of the criticism institute, said in a statement.

A growing number of news organizations in recent years have worked to create journalism with the help of nonprofit groups, including The New York Times, which has collaborated with ProPublica and The Marshall Project, two nonprofits. But the new Globe arrangement raises journalistic questions, since some of the nonprofits who will help foot the bill for its critic come from the very music world Madonna will assess.

The San Francisco Conservatory, for example, has notable alumni who may perform in concerts she attends. The Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation provides financial support to many musical institutions, so at times it may find itself underwriting both a performance and its critic. Getty is himself a composer.

Brian McGrory, the editor of The Globe, said in an email that given the novelty of the arrangement, the newspaper would be on the lookout for potential conflicts and work to avoid them.

“The Globe had detailed discussions with the nonprofits involved before we entered into this partnership and had no sense that they would even think about compromising our values,” he wrote. “It would run counter to pretty much everything they are trying to accomplish.”

The pilot program will help fill the gap while Jeremy Eichler, The Globe’s staff classical critic, is on leave as a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Madonna, who won a prize from the Rubin Institute in 2014, has been a freelance critic at The Globe. The consortium will pay for the majority of her salary, and The Globe will pay the rest; editors said that her work there would run with a tagline noting the partnership.

Although The Globe covers classical music much more than many newspapers — and has at least one world-class institution, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, on its turf — there were concerns in classical circles earlier this year when it scaled back its use of freelance critics. But McGrory said that the paper remains committed to covering the field.

“Perhaps we’ve scaled back at the fringes, but our core is rock solid, intentionally so,” he said in the email, “given the amount of classical music talent we have in Boston and the passionate following that it inspires.”