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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Journalists Ousted from Tony Voting

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Jul 16, 2009 at 11:50 AM

Interesting article in the New York Times about the decision to exclude theater critics and journalists from voting for the Tony's (Broadway theater awards), the argument being that asking critics to vote on shows causes a conflict of interest because "they vote on Tony contenders at the same time that they have a platform to champion a show in news and entertainment media." I actually fail to understand how that's a conflict per se—and bear in mind that Tony voters include producers, publicists, and others with a much more direct stake in the ceremony's outcome. However, while concerns that the new policy potentially eliminates the largest unbiased pool of Tony voters are valid, I do tend to agree with this quote:


"'I have to say the press’s job is to cover the theater, not participate in it,'" [producer Jeffrey Seller] said. “'As soon as they’re a voter, they’re a participant.'”

Portland's got the Drammy awards, which were founded by the Willamette Week, though they've since spun off, and there are a couple local critics on the judging committee (Richard Wattenberg from the O, Ben Waterhouse at Willamette Week), along with working theater professionals. We also have a new organization called the Portland Area Musical Theater Awards, which keeps the identity of their judges a secret—I don't know if they have any critics on their panel, though I'd like to think that no self-respecting journalist would agree to participate anonymously in something like that. (Then again, what do I know about self-respect.) My general feeling is that a critic's primary obligation is to her readers, not to the theater community, so it's a little weird to participate in a ceremony of which the sole beneficiaries are members of that community. Thoughts?

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