Online since August 2002
Turbulence - Charlene Baldridge's theater diary

Journalistic and other ethical transgressions

Published December 10, 2005


San Diego, the San Diego Union-Tribune, music critic Valerie Scher, and arts criticism in general took it on the chin internationally in last month's Opera News. The article caused all who call themselves critics to question our own methods and purity, especially those of us who write feature articles as well as criticism. What a sticky wicket!

Where does one draw the line between criticism and being an enthusiastic consumer of art? If you distance yourself from the humans involved in creation of the art, you end up hating the art that provides your livelihood. Instead of being a joy, the concert hall or the theater becomes a hated place, and describing what goes on there, tedious and odious. And yet, if you get too close you risk being unable to criticize when criticism is in order.

The issue is truly this: Scher received an editorial directive to dumb down her reviews. Instead of saying, as she might have, "No, I cannot do that. It is not good journalism to combine criticism and backstage chit-chat in one piece," she complied, thereby selling out conscientious journalists and dealing another near-death blow – as if it needed another – to ethical journalism. San Diego now appears to Opera News readers to be even more of a cultural backwater than before. I'm saddened and embarrassed for journalism, the arts and the city.

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