Monday, April 13, 2009

Facebook and theater (or the critic's paradox)

There are lots of reasons I like Facebook - it allows me to keep in touch with friends all over the world very easily, for one. It also allows me to list my events and invite everyone - though with diminishing effectiveness I find. For our fundraiser, I have 30+ yeses on Facebook and nearly 100 maybes. Actual count of Facebookers - maybe 20. Plus others, of course, who didn't respond to my Facebook invite. But it makes the count seem pretty unreliable.

Still, it allowed me to remind everyone that the Festival of Jewish Theater & Ideas was upcoming. And it reminded not just my friends - it reminded colleagues in theaters acroos New York and the world, and it also reminded a very special class of Facebook friend - journalists.

I write this on the heels of a few blog posts by jounalists on the subject. One post was by Alexis Soloski. She contended that, if she were to accept friend invitations from those in the theater, she would lose her objectivity. This news came as some relief to me personally - of all the journalists that I know and have sent a friend invitation to, Alexis is only one of two who have never responded. It's good to know it's a general policy.

But of course, as that last statement implies, Alexis' view doesn't seem to be shared by most of her colleagues. One colleague, Leaonard Jacobs, blogged about it. I would say that I have about 25 journalists among my friends, maybe more. And it helps. When I run into them, as I do occasionally, they know exactly what I and my theater company have been up to. We're Facebook friends, one explained recently to a puzzled third party. "There's no friend as close as a Facebook friend," I joked.

I joked, because I barely knew the journalist I was speaking with. We had interacted maybe once or twice, and then I had sent a friend invitation. As I often do in those cases. Because it's good for a journalist to know what I'm up to.

Now, would it affect that journalist's objectivity, should he/she be called upon to review my work? I don't think so. However, just so not as to impugn anyone's journalistic integrity, I have kept this jounalist's identity anonymous on my blog. I certainly would want to imply that the journalist friended any Tom, Dick or Harry that comes along.

Not that I think it would be a big deal if he/she did.

But really, is it any different than if he/she read my blog? Or if we chatted at a party (as we did)? Or if he/she was told something nice about me by a third party, or read something positive about me in a newspaper? When Ben Brantley goes to review a play on Broadway, how many of the people involved in the play has he met personally or interacted with? Many, I suspect. Some he likes, personally. Some he doesn't like. Is he completely objective? Of course not. You can't work in the theater and be objective. Nor can you have an informed opinion if you don't spend time interacting with others involved in theater. It's the critic's paradox.

Becoming Facebook friend cuts into one's objectivity in no greater way than that, however. It is just another way of keeping informed. Yes, at times the journalist is informed of where I went for brunch. But really, I have read feautures in the New York Times that informed everyone of just that sort of news about one star or another. I don't think every reviewer in town avoids those articles in order to maintain objectivity. Maybe for other reasons...

There is one journalist who came to review some shows of mine who recently informed me he/she (yes, still keeping things anonymous) would no longer be reviewing my work. We had gone for drinks, chatted a few times, and in his/her opinion a review would no longer be appropriate.

Damn, I thought, for a moment. I should have kept it on Facebook.

1 comment:

Kasheri said...

For you, a boon. For me? Well, it gets a little complicated. Even friends locked social networking pages are potentially discoverable in court. And, if you are in the business of making findings, you have to be careful whom you friend...

"Facebook Friend Earns Judge a Reprimand
Opposing counsel are sitting with the judge in his chambers during a child-custody trial when the lawyer for the husband brings up Facebook. The other lawyer says she is a non-user, but the judge quickly agrees to "friend" the lawyer who is on Facebook. As the trial proceeds, the judge and the lawyer comment about it to each other through their Facebook pages, with the lawyer writing in one post, "I have a wise Judge."
Hmmm. Wise in the ways of social networking, perhaps, but lacking something in the judicial-ethics department. When the hearing ended and the judge entered his order, the wife's lawyer found out about their "friendship" and quickly moved for a new trial and for the judge's disqualification. The judge promptly removed himself from the case and the wife got a new trial.
The socially networked North Carolina judge, B. Carlton Terry Jr., also earned himself a public reprimand from the state's Judicial Standards Commission. The judge now agrees "that he will not repeat such conduct in the future" and "will promptly read and familiarize himself with the Code of Judicial Conduct."
Part of the Facebook exchange between the judge and the lawyer involved the weight to be given testimony that one spouse had been unfaithful. During a meeting in chambers the day after the Judge Terry had friended lawyer Charles A. Schieck, Terry told the lawyers he believed the testimony but did not see that it made any difference in deciding custody. Schieck responded, "I will have to see if I can prove a negative."
That evening, Schieck posted on his Facebook account, "How do I prove a negative?" Judge Terry saw it and responded that he had "two good parents to choose from," to which Schieck posted his "wise judge" remark. The next day, the two shared additional messages on Facebook. In one, Schieck wrote, "I hope I'm in my last day of trial." Judge Terry responded, "You are in your last day of trial."
All well and good, if not for that irksome little prohibition against a judge engaging in ex parte communications involving a matter pending before him. And that was not the only way in which this Internet-loving judge went astray of the rules in the case. As the trial started, he took it upon himself to conduct independent research. He Googled the wife and found his way to her business Web site, where he viewed her photographs and read her poems. He even read one of her poems into the record as he announced his findings in the case. It did not seem to trouble him that none of what he saw or read was in evidence. "
[ The Dispatch and the ABA Journal.]