Saturday, September 01, 2007

Moving On III

Much as I want to move on, if people keep posting comments requiring responses, I'll respond. As always, you're welcome to move on if you don't like what I post. Please, please do.

Allison writes,

I think you've got your targets mixed up, Leonard. If you want "separate but equal", then theatres ought to invite bloggers along on opening night like everyone else. (That's what happens here). And your beef - if indeed it is a question of professional ethics - seems to me not to be with George, who transgressed no understandings, but with the theatre company that issued the invitations in the first place. Have you taken this issue up with them?
I reply,

I think your targets are mixed up, Allison. I am not advocating for "separate but equal." I think "separate but equal" is wrong, and if you've read the post you'd know that. Indeed, the headline of the post in question read "Why Do Bloggers Endorse and Embrace "Separate But Unequal"? and the last line of my post read "Why would anyone, in 2007, endorse and embrace the idea of separate but equal? Didn't we resolve that a long time ago? Maybe you're drinking out of different water fountains, too." So I'm not embracing it, I'm saying it shouldn't be as such.

[this paragraph has been redacted at the request of individuals connected to the production of 100 Saints You Should Know.]

You can also call the three press agents I have called so far to discuss this matter and ask them what we discussed. My solution -- which is explicitly stated and, I think, quite clear in Moving On II, is: " position is to bring certain blogger-critics into the fold, not to keep them out of it. If they're good enough to be comped, to publish reviews, to be used to generate buzz, they're surely good enough to play by the rules, whatever they might be." That's not 'separate but equal,' Allision. That in the fold with everyone else and considered quite equal.

Further, my beef is with George and Playwrights Horizons. This idea that George, because he was given comp tickets, is suddenly freed like some shackled animal from any ethical questions or professional concerns or expectations is nonsense. And Playwrights Horizons is breaking its compact with its artists and with the rest of the media by saying bloggers are fully welcome to review a production in an early preview but the rest cannot. That must not and will not stand, and no, I will not drop it.

Statler writes,

"Dear oh dear. Way to go about making a fuss over nothing.

2 separate issues going on here and it's best to treat them seperately. Firstly the part about reviewing a preview - this is almost entirely about being fair to the production. Given that Playwrights Horizons provided George with the tickets on the basis he would write about it, and with no suggestion of any form of embargo there really shouldn't be anything else to be said on this. As Alison says, if you really have a problem with this take it up with the company.

The second aspect of publishing a review having left at the intermission I have more of a problem with. Given that George has stated the tickets were on the basis he would write about it "after seeing the performance" it does seem inappropriate to write about it after seeing half the performance. To me, this has breached the conditions on which the tickets were provided. I think George really had 2 options at the interval - stick it out and write his review or alternatively leave, pay for the tickets and not write the review.

For my own site, we decline press tickets as it allows us more freedom to react honestly and means we are under little or no obligation to the theatre to write anything at all. But we also generally try to avoid commenting on previews.

But seriously, this really shouldn't be a big deal. Let it go.

I reply,

There are indeed two separate issues going on here, but I maintain and will continue to maintain: "This idea that George, because he was given comp tickets, is suddenly freed like some shackled animal from any ethical questions or professional concerns or expectations is nonsense." And I have taken it up with Playwrights Horizons, a representative of which called me yesterday because now they're concerned, apparently, that negative publicity might be a problem, or to explain their "side" of the story, or something like that. I would advise you not to tell me what to do or what to write. If I choose to make this a public issue, that's my choice.

When you discuss the problem of George having left at the intermission and that being wrong because it "breached the conditions on which the tickets were provided," the problem here is precisely that no conditions were apparently provided whatsoever, and George took that to mean that was required to hold, or to demonstrate, or to espouse any personal ethics or responsibilities in that situation of his own, only one of which is to see the entire performance if you're going to write a formal review of it. According to Matt Freeman and Aaron Riccio (that defender of all things George Hunka, apparently) -- and I'm more or less paraphrasing, not quoting -- Playwrights Horizons basically said they could write anything they wanted to, so George did. I'm not saying Playwrights Horizons is innocent here by any stretch. I'm saying that just because Playwrights Horizons or any other group says, "Here are the comps -- equal to the comps we give to all the critics -- but we're not going to hold you to any ethical standards whatsoever," that doesn't mean George or anybody, as part of a community, really is freed of ethical or professional questions or concerns or expectations or responsibilities.

And as far as letting it go, no. Period.

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Aaron Riccio said...

You should watch Deadwood. You'd like it. :)

Did want to clarify the "apparently," though. I'm not a "defender of all things George Hunka." I think (and I posted so on his site) that his review was irresponsibly misleading. It only seems like I'm defending him because I'm speaking about my own association to this so-called problem and my own stance on comp tickets (not press tickets, mind you). But hey, carry on.

Leonard Jacobs said...

The point is that in permitting and -- to my mind -- encouraging reviews or anything else of a critical nature to be written and posted, they WERE press tickets. Playwrights Horizons can take this disingenuous stance that they are not press tickets, but they are, and standards of ethical conduct must be expected of anyone who accepts those professional comps in exchange for posting something, including reviews.

Maybe y'all aren't getting it, but even though I've spelled this out several times now, let me do it once again: If blogger-critics are good enough and valuable enough to be given professional comps, then blogger-critics should be viewed and considered part of the critic and journalist community and put on the first- or second-night lists along with everyone else.

Blogger-critics are not, and must not be treated as, a second class of citizens -- hence my harping on the "separate but equal" analogy, which is entirely apt, in my view. (Matt Freeman can disagree all he wants -- I'm still using it.) As I've also said many times already, more than 50% of the supposed MSM critics and journalists out there are freelancers -- no more and no less a writer first than any of the bloggers. As I've also said repeatedly, to state that because I happen to have a full-time job as a critic-writer does not mean I'm not a critic-writer first. If you think I've really got some sort of "institutional backing," you don't know much about what's really happening in contemporary American arts journalism.

Again: I want blogger-critics to be part of the fray, equal and equally valued, not some relegated second class. And yes, that would mean adhering to the same ethical standards as everyone else. It wouldn't be so terrible. It would give blogger-critics tremendous respect, power and influence. And I support that 100%.

Alison Croggon said...

Leonard, quite clearly I left an important word out - that if you thought that bloggers should NOT be "separate but equal". A typo that was quite clear from the context. If that's the case, as I said, then bloggers should get opening night invites like everyone else. End of story.

I worked as a professional msm journalist for a decade. I am now a totally msm theatre critic (I am the Melbourne critic for the national daily broadsheet). You're talking through the wrong orifice.

All I can see in your weirdly hysterical denunciation of George (but not, I note, of other bloggers who also - albeit favourably - reviewed the show) is fear that you will somehow lose your job. Or your "authority". Whatever. I have a review to write for my newspaper and then another for my blog. Pip pip.

Leonard Jacobs said...

You did leave a word out, and no, it wasn't clear from your comment.

And if you've read the blog, you know I am also in favor of bloggers being on the first- or second-night lists here in NYC. If you haven't seen those posts, please let me know and I will send them to you in their entirety.

It seems unbecoming to discuss my orifices, or yours.

My denunciation is neither weird nor hysterical -- your cavalier dismissal of the subjet is short-sighted and ignorant. And my issue is with anyone who reviewed the show, period. If you want me to find all of them and call all of them out, is that not an invitation to more accusations of weirdness and hysteria?

And I have no fear whatsoever about losing my job. Period. None. Whatsoever.

And as I have said repeatedly -- and as I will continue to say -- it is not about "authority." It is about ethics. You are free to disagree, and free to be wrong.

Oh, and I've already written my reviews for this week, thanks. Care to have all the links to those? Probably not is my guess.

Pip Pip.