Cleveland Orchestra Wins Lawsuit

When the jury concluded deliberations in the lawsuit filed by of Cleveland Plain Dealer former classical-music critic Donald Rosenberg against the Cleveland Orchestra and the Plain Dealer, the orchestra and paper emerged victorious. And although a number of characters in both organizations are sharing in a collective sigh of relief, the victory is, at best, hollow…

If this is the first you’ve heard of this or you need to catch up, you can learn more here. Likewise, you can find a great of information about the ruling via a quick Google news search. But back to the hollow victory.

According to an article in the 8/6/2010 edition of the New York Times by Dan Wakin, the Cleveland Orchestra issued a statement calling the jury’s decision

…a recognition of its members’ “First Amendment rights to express their opinion in defending their institution.”

Although previous reports on the trial indicate that Rosenberg claimed that what the Cleveland Orchestra defined as free speech crossed a line and become corrosion.

And here’s where things become very sad for the entire field. It really doesn’t matter if Rosenberg won or lost, the fact that things reached such a level where the only recourse was to pursue legal action demonstrates that this business is far too efficient at devouring itself from the inside out. Here we are worrying about external pressures when we can realize the same self fulfilling prophecy of cultural irrelevance by cannibalizing ourselves.

As of now it is unclear if Rosenberg plans to challenge the decision. Reportedly, he hasn’t discussed it with his lawyer.

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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4 thoughts on “Cleveland Orchestra Wins Lawsuit

  1. Don isn’t the former music critic of the Plain Dealer. He was removed from writing about and reviewing the Cleveland Orchestra, but still writes about and reviews other organizations, both musical and dance.

  2. I am curious about that as well, I’ve seen “former” used in a few traditional media outlets so I stopped by the Plain Dealer website to see what his title was in bylines and all they use is “Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer.”

  3. I’m not sure that filing the lawsuit was anybody’s only recourse. Filing a lawsuit is a choice one makes among other options. We don’t all get our own way in everything always.

  4. I suppose that is matter of perspective and I would be surprised if Don Rosenberg had not already exhausted every other option he was aware of before considering legal action. Given how much his work means to him and the extent to which it defines him, obtaining a satisfactory resolution became a goal that defined his available options.

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