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 Post subject: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2001 6:54 pm 
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Web sites are popping up all over the world for various reasons. At least one (not criticaldance.com) was begun to encourage lovers of dance to form an alternative voice to the malicious and biased among newspaper critics. It was a way of keeping critics honest. The web site even published a very informative and thoughtful article on criticism, by someone close to the world of ballet, that seemed targeted at a specific critic who has long been accused by the dance community as being biased. A forum was even created, so that when critics such as this unfairly writes that a performance was horrible due to a middling oddly proportioned dancer or refers to a seasoned choreographer as amateurish, the dance community could post into the Internet forum with outrage and share with the world their own more truthful assessments of the performance. At least, that was the idea.

The web site I refer to, even though it has succeeded in many other areas, failed to live up to its honorable goal as an alternative voice. Fortunately, other web sites have taken up the mantle. Dance Insider Online offers honest reviews by honest dancers and criticaldance.com not only allows lovers of dance to speak up but also places links to newspaper reviews side by side, allowing readers worldwide to compare the critics; the odd, biased one almost always stands out.

While dancers themselves are still timid about confronting their critics, authors, perhaps because of their comfort with the written word, seem to be taking journalists head on. Kevin Hartfield, in his article in the Hartford Courant titled Internet Emerges As Jousting Field For Journalists, writes, "If the past 10 days are any indication, the relationship between media and book journalists and the writers they cover -- at least those who have their own websites -- has changed forever." He is referring to a couple of recent incidents in which writers maligned by critics have responded by publishing their own clarifications on the Internet.

One such writer was Dave Eggers, web editor of McSweeneys.net, who printed a rebuttal against New York Times correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick. His 10,000-word open letter to Kirkpatrick ends with, "So. You used my words out of context, and used words that were never meant for public consumption, and now it has happened to you. You cast doubt on my motives, and now people can wonder about yours. It must feel strange. You probably don't think it's fair. My guess is you don't think you come off too well, and you wish you could take each person reading this aside and try to explain. Welcome to the club."

If you think about how wide a readership the Internet has over a newspaper, the repercussions to a newspaper critic who is dishonest can be staggering, that is as long as the Internet and forums such as criticaldance.com are used in that way.

The question is: will we see a new class of fair critics that are kept honest by the Internet?

[As a side note, it is interesting to note that the site I refer to in the beginning of this post has recently hired the critic disliked by the dance community...]


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2001 6:26 am 
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Funny how no one has responded to this forum? What gives? Have we hit a nerve here? Me thinks Alzan is referring to www.danceinsider.com I find too many critics fall into one of two categories: (a) They find fault with everything or (b) They absolutely love everything. Problem is they quickly lose credibility with this type of approach—Especially when they fill their copy with too much hyperbole (vertiginous exactitude). Some honesty would be refreshing. I would also like to see a rating—Either out of 5 stars or a percentage out of 100 or a simple thumbs up or down.


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2001 8:10 am 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
Mich--. . .er. . .Marius, Please tell us how you reconcile your belief that Azlan was referring to Dance Insider with the following text from his original message:

Quote:
The web site I refer to, even though it has succeeded in many other areas, failed to live up to its honorable goal as an alternative voice. Fortunately, other web sites have taken up the mantle. Dance Insider Online offers honest reviews by honest dancers and criticaldance.com not only allows lovers of dance to speak up but also places links to newspaper reviews side by side, allowing readers worldwide to compare the critics; the odd, biased one almost always stands out.

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Jeffrey E. Salzberg,
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http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


Last edited by salzberg on Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2001 8:19 am 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
Quote:
While dancers themselves are still timid about confronting their critics, authors, perhaps because of their comfort with the written word, seem to be taking journalists head on


Well, I'm not a dancer, but I'm an artist in much the same situation. I'm reasonably comfortable with the written word, but I would hesitate to confront a critic. Most performing artists are painfully aware that journalists <I>always</I> have the last word and that doing public battle with them can be injurious to one's career.

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Jeffrey E. Salzberg,
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http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


Last edited by salzberg on Mon Dec 22, 2008 1:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2001 10:09 am 
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So who was he referring to?<P>------------------<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2001 10:19 am 
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Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
Some artists need to confront their critics (I don't know if I would, but maybe that's my duck and run for cover mentality, lol), and if they can do it through the Internet then I wish them well. You need guts and nerves of steel (which, come to think of it, dance artists have in three-fold) and if you're going to fight words with words you better have a sharp pencil. Judging from the quality of writing on the DI website, there are a lot of dance artists who are more than capable. <P>In regards to the Internet critiques that appear on websites such as this one, I am very interested in reading the opinions of those with their ears to the ground. These are generally the perspectives of the people I would talk to and debate with after a show. And since I can't see everything I would like to see, this makes for a good substitute. I like getting information from a variety of sources, including the published critic. But I'm not a fan of what I have recently seen described as a "Warts Noveau" style of internet journalism. I don't want to read someone's politics when they are reviewing a production. Don't tell me what you think of the dancers or the choreographer as people. There's a time and place for that, and it would be over coffee at my house if we were good friends. In this forum I just want to know what your impressions of the work are without all of the hyberbole. <P>Will the Internet keep critics honest? Well, each person has a different truth and deserves to tell it. Anyone who is truly interested in what they are writing about is also interested in different points of view. The Internet crosses geographical and social boundaries in a way that allows the published critic exposure to a variety of opinions. As far as I can tell, that's a good thing.


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2001 2:33 pm 
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I think the internet may give more opportunities - but not necessarily more or less honesty. Those who will be honest will do so in any medium - and the reverse is all too true I am afraid. <P>I think in the end - optimist that I am - the truth will "out" - and a dishonest critic will reveal that in time no matter the place.


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2001 4:12 pm 
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Wow--duh!!!? I just "discovered" danceinsider. I'll have to check this out. Looks like an interesting site. I simply don't have time to "surf the web" as much as I'd like to !


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2001 5:30 pm 
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Petipa, I'd rather not answer your question, even if several people know what and whom I'm referring to, as that web site is very important to dance and I am doing whatever I kind to still support and promote it.<P>Now, as far as responding to critics, perhaps it should come from readers, not so much the performers themselves. Not too long ago, a critic wrote a review that attacked not only the personalities of the founders of a dance company but also fellow critics for supporting this company. Because this one review was in such sharp contrast with <I>all</I> the other reviews, it was pretty obvious that this critic was shamelessly biased. Many readers, including myself and several prominent members of the community, wrote to the editor to complain.<P>Not a single letter was published.<P>The paper's excuse was that such overwhelming response is deemed a campaign to discredit the critic. The paper also said that if the company filed a complain, it had nothing to go on but hearsay. The paper was therefore standing behind its critic and ended up bullying the dance company.<P>However, here on the Internet, readers can post their feelings and the writer, his editor and the publisher will be exposed to the world as "dishonest," even if the performers themselves feel it professionally suicidal to confront their critics. This is what I mean by how the Internet can keep critics honest.<P>Imagine if 100 readers posted on the Internet and said, "I think so and so got it all wrong. How could he have said this when all the other critics and most of the audience thought the opposite?"<P>Imagine what would happen to the critic's career if for example a reader posted on this forum the links to all the newspaper reviews of a performance in which only his was highly negative and attacked the personalities of the performers?<P>When you have a forum such as this that receives 20,000 hits a day, worldwide, would that critic and his editor continue to be blatantly biased?


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2001 11:32 am 
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Or is the web making dimestore critics out of everyone:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B>Youthful Web critics aim spears at Britney</B><P>Paloma McGregor, Newhouse News Service<BR>San Jose Mercury News<P>The bigger the star, it seems, the easier to abuse.<P>That might explain why Britney Spears, named this month as one of the most powerful celebrities in the world by Forbes magazine, is getting dissed all over the Web.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><A HREF="http://www0.mercurycenter.com/premium/arts/docs/britney16.htm" TARGET=_blank><B>More</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2001 3:43 am 
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Azlan, "I' m with you in Rockland where you're madder than I am…"* <P>Nevertheless, I sense a censorious rather than a persuasive intent; if I understand your words correctly after all I am mad, in the "imagine what would happen " statement. Suddenly, I doubt (my problem, I know) what the words 'honesty' and 'dishonesty' means in the context of this thread. If honesty means fairness, then where is the fairness, say, in bestowing on a critical opinion the virtue of honesty by counting the number of critical comments that share its opinion? For example, 'all' of the other critics save one agreed on such and such, therefore, the dissenting critic is biased -implying that the others are not- and hence, dishonest. I sympathize with the anger, disgust, and desire for an accounting that vitriolic, etc. reviews enflame. However, the appeal to popular agreement (whether condemning or approving) for authority or honesty is a type of reasoning that leads, IMHO, into the heart of non-sequiturial darkness. <P>Practically speaking, however, I think that responding to obnoxious reviews with the 'fix bayonets and frontally assault' kind of attitude (the kind I enjoy and I think that you recommend) grants rather than denies legitimacy. It encourages rather than erases the galling pretension to preemptive authority that obnoxious reviews and reviewers seem to embody. Who wants to do that? (Sadly, I suspect that that legitimacy and power is what the online company you speak about seeks in hiring the excoriated, now valorized by the attention, critic mentioned.) <P>If in my madness I follow Besheva correctly, then, I agree that honesty- fairness, virtue, and respectability - will out. It will out, however, a la Perseus by indirectly slaying the Gorgon of exclusive authority. I imagine instead (maybe its likewise with you) that the many voices of critical opinion bury rather than behead the offending singularity with a crowd of opinions and, hence, choices. <BR>"O victory forget your underwear we're free…" ** from Howl by A. Ginsberg. <BR><p>[This message has been edited by S. E. Arnold (edited March 17, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2001 6:57 am 
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Victory at Samothrace was not unclothed...LOL<P>It is within our nature as human beings to sometimes fear the change that choice presents us - or the vastness of spaces that choice opens up. But seldom do those fears prove to be grounded in fact.<P>The knowledgeable critic with honesty as the motivating force, will prove staying power, is my optimistic view.


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2001 8:30 am 
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SE, you bring up a good point in regards to popular opinion. I was thinking along the same lines and hence that is why I posted that link to the Britney Spears story. On the one hand the Internet can be a powerful tool for confronting injustice and on the other it can so easily encourage something akin to a mob scene.<P>I also believe that differences of opinion are not only allowed but should be encouraged (as in this forum) in dance criticism. And sometimes it is not easy to draw the line between opinion and outright bias. Sometimes it takes a history of a person's writings for knowledgeable readers to perceive the personal biases. I would like to believe that the Internet accelerates that process.<P>But let's ask the question again: where are we with the Internet? Can it help keep critics honest or will it "dumb down" criticism?


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2001 9:02 am 
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I think those that wish the dumbed down version of critique will choose that - and the others who wish something more will go the "more" road.<P>As in other things - being able to quickly set books to type (soft covers) was once thought of as literary trash. Yes, trash is produced, but so also have great literary works been made affordable and available to greater numbers of people.<P>People will find what they seek - those wishing something more will not be lured by ease of consumption. <P>


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 Post subject: Re: Will the Internet Keep Critics Honest?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2001 9:08 am 
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Azlan i don't know whether it will keep critics honest, but it will and is having an effect. One London critic, who I heard speaking about her craft, said that she sometimes wondered whether anyone ever read her stuff, because there were so few letters or comments about what she had written. With the advent of the Internet, reviews are being reviewed for the first time. I have received an angry e-mail from a critic who have disliked what I had said about their comments. Thus I think critics will be aware that they are no longer in an ivory tower.<P>My impression is that dance artists rarely complain to critics for concern that it will make the situation worse next time. <P>One of the most positive aspects of the Internet is the way that new critics can learn the ropes through practical experience. From this site alone we have at least 3 examples of published writers who have started on the Internet.


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