The Playgoer: Reviewing Ethics, cont.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reviewing Ethics, cont.

Okay well some folks think a critic has no business writing plays--or at least getting them reviewed and covered by the press. Or is it that a playwright has no business writing reviews???

Please see said Comments (#5) for my own riposte to these objections. In short I have no problem standing by George Hunka's right to write plays as well as earn a living as a freelance reviewer. And I don't think that should stop his plays from being covered and, hence, get audiences.

Let me draw people's attention to an example of how the Times handled this kind of situation before, when they reviewed a Fringe show by their own Neil Genzlinger two years ago. (If you're having trouble accessing the archives, the date is 8/26/04. The show was an adaptation of "The Last Detail.") The review was written by one Jonathan Mandell, who according to the Times archives, seems to have done many staff writer assignments, including theatre reviewing from 1999-2004, and his review includes the following standard-disclaimer line: "The stage version, adapted by Neil Genzlinger, a writer and editor at The New York Times..."

Now I will note that this review of Genzlinger's show is indeed the last byline Mandell seems to have had in the paper. Oops? Is George paying the price for Genzlinger's folly?

Whatever fallout there may or may not have been from this piece, I think Mandell's review does the job just fine. It identifies Genzlinger's affiliation. The review is clearly independently minded and decidedly mixed. But I suppose in hindsight it would have been even better for the Times to go completely outside the rotation and hire someone "special," whose name didn't regularly appear on the Arts page.

And that's probably what they should have done instead of assigning Rob Kendt to George's show, even though my impression of Kendt is as an experienced and thoroughly professional journalist of at least standard integrity. (We've corresponded about blog matters, but otherwise don't know each other.) But his name has appeared more than once in the Arts section of late (not sure, but roughly as many times as George's?) so I suppose no matter how many disclaimers he put in, some might raise concerns.

But that's the Arts Desk's responsibility, not the playwright or the reviewer. What's unfortunate here is that if they had anticipated the "conflict of interest" issue earlier (which anyone who knows these names could have) George could have still gotten his show reviewed. And I think that would have been fine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think people (including the TIMES) seem to forget the age we live in.

Such as this headline:

Fox anchor named Bush press secretary