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Editors and critics -- what would you do?

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[Note from A.T. I split this off from the thread on "Hometown Critic, what would you do?" so that each question could have its own answers.]

I'll give you one in which I've participated as a reader and writer of Letters to the Editor:

You are the editor of a mid-size suburban/rural regional daily with a readership of over 250,000. You know nothing about dance, but an employment candidate shows up with excellent Journalism education and history from the vicinities of Ivy in New England. The candidate also possesses a cum laude degree in Dance. You hire this person. This individual then, in the first column out of the box, announces that the purpose of This Critic is to bring about the Demise of Classical Ballet, for most of the usual tired and wrong reasons from about the 1940s, and to use the newspaper as the Bully Pulpit from which to preach. This cherem includes the local civic companies. What do you do?

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I think this is an interesting question. My answer will sound rather smug, but if I were an editor, this wouldn't happen, unless the critic were totally dishonest and deliberately misled me to get his bully pulpit. I'd question the writer before I hired him/her. If I were an editor, I wouldn't be looking for someone of the Ballet is Dead school, and I'd look elsewhere, UNLESS that critic were so absolutely brilliant a writer, and everyone else who'd applied was substandard.

IF I'd allowed my arts editor to hire the critic and I opened the Sunday paper and saw a piece that said "I'm so happy to be here. Ballet is dead, it's over, and I'm going to preside over its demise and dance on its grave," I'd fire him. But more for telegraphing his intentions than what those intentions were, I think. (I'd be much more worried about the writer who bends over backwards to APPEAR as though s/he's the most objective of souls, only to constantly say, "But why do we need a perfectly restored "Sleeping Beauty" or yet another Ashton or Balanchine masterpiece?" as though the thought had just occurred to him that morning on the subway.) I think a critic who announces they're going to use the paper as a bully pulpit for anything has an ego that, I think, should not be unleashed on any dancer, company director, or reader.

As a related note, even in tiny little DanceView, especially when it was Washington DanceView and I used a lot of untried, very young critics, there were two Unforgivable Sins: One was taking a press ticket and then not writing a review. Two was saying excitedly "I just got a letter from Company X complaining about my review. I'm so important now!" Both were one strikes and you're out for me.

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