Some Belated Thoughts On Columbus

Now that the 2008 Take A Friend To Orchestra program is completed, I can take a moment to properly address something that happened in connection to the ongoing situation at the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO). In particular, the 4/9/2008 edition of the Columbus Dispatch published an article by Michael Grossberg which stands out as the most reprehensible contribution to date among a string of disappointing articles that have been masquerading as acceptable coverage of the CSO’s current situation…

The article, titled "Criticisms of orchestra board prompt
issue-by-issue review," is nothing more than a thinly veiled straw man
argument hidden behind a copious number of line-item quotes from Henry
Fogel. Who knows if Henry was misquoted, was unaware of the Dispatch’s
intentions, or even offered those quotes before the CSO press blackout.
At the time this post is published, there is no mention of the Dispatch
article at the League website or Henry’s blog offering any insight;
consequently, one can only assume if Henry intended his comments to be
used to support the Dispatch’s review.

After initially reading the Dispatch article, I started to write a letter to the editor but quickly abandoned the idea after one of my favorite adages came to mind:

Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level then beat you with experience.

At the risk of arguing against the idiotic points in the
dispatch article, I’m merely going to point out some of the more
unscrupulous practices that the Dispatch employed to make this article
the worst example of cultural reporting I have ever had the displeasure
of coming across:

  1. Publishing an "issue-by-issue review" based on quotes from
    CSO managers and musician spokespersons during a period when all
    parties have agreed to a press blackout, thereby preventing either side
    a reasonable opportunity to respond, is inexcusable. The fact that the
    Dispatch mentions the press blackout and that all statements "were
    obtained before the groups entered into negotiations" doesn’t provide
    any moral authority to launch an overt attack, pardon me, I mean
    "prompt an issue-by-issue review" of excerpted public statements from
    either side in the CSO situation (did anyone else notice there was no
    link to the original statements so reader’s could place context?).
  2. Misrepresenting the organization’s financial position as
    "limp[ing] from paycheck to paycheck" amounts to garden variety sloppy
    reporting. The Dispatch article fails to outline how it came to that
    conclusion and based on information from an interview with CSO
    Executive Director, Tony Beadle, published
    here on 3/24/2008 the organization is doing what every professional
    orchestral organization does around this time of the season: paying
    extra close attention to cash flow. Although my interview with Tony was
    conducted during the press blackout, the ensuing information was
    approved by both sides as it did not violate issues related to
    negotiations. Perhaps the Dispatch should subscribe to Adaptistration’s
    RSS feed so they can obtain the most recent information available
    before publishing inaccurate statements like those from their 4/9/2008
    article. But if they did that, they would already know they’ve been
    inaccurately reporting statements from Tony Beadle.

The only thing remaining worth saying at this point is simply "shame on the Columbus Dispatch."

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “Some Belated Thoughts On Columbus

  1. “…After initially reading the Dispatch article, I started to write a letter to the editor but quickly abandoned the idea…”

    That was probably an efficient use of your time. As someone who’s seen many of the unpublished letters to the Dispatch editors, I’ve noticed that the more intelligent, eloquent and lucid letters to the Dispatch seem to have less of a chance of being published.

    Thank you Julia, I did wonder if it was the right decision especially since I typically urge readers to write letters to the editor when they are pleased or displeased with coverage. Having heard from some Dispatch readers that had letters published, they all mentioned crucial points in their respective letters were edited by the Dispatch. ~ Drew McManus

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