Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Theatre Blogging - Ethics

Thomas Garvey, now almost blogging a whole year, ponders the whole issue of standards and ethics in blogging:

This issue of self-promotion impacts me in a different way, however, in that I'm going to be directing a show this winter for Zeitgeist Stage - and so I'm struggling with how to write about that process, how to cover Zeitgeist, and how much to write about other shows in town. Another blogger, Art Hennessy of Mirror Up to Nature, struggles with similar issues, as his wife, Amanda Good Hennessy, is an active local actress. But should Art and I be so concerned with conflicts of interest when so many blogs are so relentessly self-promotional? (Isn't that, after all, a subtle conflict of interest?) Are there any standards to be broken here at all?

I wonder this sometimes also. I always try to disclose any close associations with productions even when I am just mentioning them in a roundup of local theatre. It seems like a fair thing to do for anybody who is reading this blog. (In fact, I even did this when my blog was semi-anonymous.) But, in the end, I am not sure I am obliged to do this.

As I have stated before, but I'm not fanatical. For instance, I won't say something like: "Julie K. does a fantastic job as Blanche (Full Disclosure: I played a supporting role with Julie in a community theatre production of Inherit the Wind in 1997, but have never seen or talked to her since.)"

My wife acts regularly in Boston. And actors, actresses and directors who work in Boston, New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. came through our doors at Essayons Theatre Company at some point.

This familiarity is one of the reasons I do disclosures and one of the reasons I don't review things very often, positive or negative. Though it is not the only reason, or the biggest one. The main reason I don't review often is because I don't have much time. And between the reviews in the Globe, Herald, Phoenix Weekly Dig, PMP Network, Edge Boston, Larry Stark, numerous IRNE reviewers Theatermirror and, now, Thomas Garvey and Bill Marx online, I usually don't have a tremendous amount to add to the discussion in the way of reviews.

It is only if something really strikes me in a certain way, or I see a connection that has not been made yet in other reviews, or I feel that a show is being overpraised or under praised that I will write something.

I will mention when I am directing something or if I have appeared in a film or play or even a commercial. But I don't really see this blog as a self-promotional tool at all.

What is this blog, then?

Like all blogs, it is my thoughts that I choose to put out there. What I write might not be completely unfiltered, (I do try to avoid profanity, etc.) or unedited (I will try to rewrite sentences, change paragraph order or check spelling if I get to the chance.) However, I can promise that what goes on the blog is not tailored.

These are my true thoughts, at the time I am writing them. What you read here is most likely what you get when you talk to me in person. I am not writing to any specific audience.

Also, I try very hard to confine my thoughts to theatre. I will talk about other arts, but I have been very true to theatre this whole time of blogging. Five years almost? Jeez.

Over the years I have had my own critics, people commenting or e-mailing me. I try to engage with anybody who does, but the most interesting critics to me are the ones who think I should "shut up." They say this in a variety of ways, and it always baffles me. You can disagree or try to show me I don't know what I am talking about, but when you are just saying, "I wish you would shut up," or "stop writing this blog," it confuses me for a couple of reasons:

1. There is more choice on the Internet than there will ever be on terrestrial radio, print media, television, etc. If the old saying "You don't like it, then change the channel" had weight with traditional electronic media, its truth has grown exponentially on the World Wide Web.

2. I have absolutely 0.0 % influence. This blog, at its most popular times, has about 70 visits a day, its average is probably close to 30. (For a long, long time it was about 7-10.)

3. It is so easy to start your own blog. It costs nothing, (you can even make a little side money with GoogleAds and Amazon stores,) and it is all on your own schedule.

In short: The great part about blogs is that people can write whatever they want. The BEST part about blogs is that nobody has to read them.

Thomas Garvey concludes, in his typical fashion:

At any rate, the one thing I can guarantee you (aside from my arrogance in asserting opinions that almost always turn out to be right) is that I'll continue my policy of full disclosure. Of course I'm able to do this because I'm not really trying to eke out a career in journalism; nor am I tied forever to Zeitgeist Stage (much less my alma mater). I'm a free agent - and sometimes I think that's what's really at the bottom of some of the animosity I sense from
other writers and critics. I don't have to kow-tow to a witless editor, or tread carefully for fear of rousing the subscriber base. I don't care about these things, and I don't have to - and perhaps that, more than any perceptive edge, is what has enabled me to be so accurate for so long.

1 comment:

Thomas Garvey said...

Wow - five years! Congratulations - what a pioneer! Like you, I find what's creepiest about assaults from people like the Arts Fuse's "Anonymous" is their implicit or direct demand that we simply "shut up." Yeah, right. I suppose they want people to stop talking in cafes, or on the phone, too. Of course what rubs "Anonymous" really raw is that I bring up the facts that are secretly "embedded" in the discourse, and I constantly call other critics on their gaps and biases - or plain old incompetence. This is thought of as "uncivil," although I don't really know why - shouldn't critics be held accountable for what they write? (Indeed, it's hard for me not to believe that "Anonymous" isn't someone I've crossed in the past - although it's possible.)

Anyway, hang in there (at least for five more years), and so will I. I drop by every day, so I feel I'm doing my part to keep that visit count up!

And just btw, you should really write that piece about waterboarding!