There’s a story out of London that is both interesting and provocative. It is also a story that New York’s woebegone theater critics (heck, all critics of artistic disciplines, including blogger-critics) ought to be paying attention to.
According to The Stage:
Four leading critics have quit a recently launched theatre website, claiming they are owed thousands of pounds in back-pay and accusing the organisation of a lack of professionalism.
Journalists Mark Shenton, chairman of the Critics’ Circle drama division and a critic for both the Sunday Express and The Stage, Jane Edwardes, formerly theatre editor of Time Out, Roger Foss, formerly editor of whatsonstage magazine and Robert Shore, a reviewer for London’s Metro, have all walked out of whatsonintheatre.com and demanded that their names be removed from the website.
Sean James Cameron, the one-time editor of the website, said that he had also quit the organisation.
Members of the group of journalists claim that they are still owed several thousand pounds in pay for work they have submitted to the online publication, which launched earlier this year.
I checked out the site — sure, it could be useful, but it’s really, in the end, going to be all about ticket sales, much as any commercial venture would necessarily need and want to be. So while the site is pretty much fannish, I’m rather surprised there was any attempt at all to provide actual criticism or journalism. Bravo, then, to the critics who were participating.
And fair is fair: If the critics are contractually owed funds, they need to be paid. And they need to be paid now.
The interesting (as opposed to provocative) angle to this story relates to where the situation currently stands:
It is understood that the issue has been raised with the Critics’ Circle on behalf of the group and that some of the journalists are considering legal action against TV London, the parent organisation of whatsonintheatre.com, which also supplies in-flight videos for British Airways.
Can anyone imagine one of the critics organizations in New York actually doing something on behalf of critics? Even if the Critics’ Circle in London writes a letter or issues a statement, such pro-critic advocacy work, something so simple and so logical, far too often seems utterly beyond the craniums of New York’s critics’ groups.
It shouldn’t all be about awards, right?