Saturday, October 4, 2008

Palm Beach Post: Failing Grade

First, I will admit that I have a very narrow focus here; I'm all about promoting interest in theatre.  I started this blog in the first place because our local papers do a piss-poor job covering theater.  Only the Herald has taken any effort to step up to the plate with the creation of Christine Dolen's blog, The Drama Queen.

The Palm Beach Post responded to Hap Erstein's resignation with silence and inaction.  They simply do not give a shit, as evidenced by the complete lack of any effort to secure even a short term solution.  Twenty years ago, when the incompetent post editorial staff fired Carolyn Jack, the Post at least found a sports writer to cover theater on a temporary basis.  Jack Vitek was spectacularly unqualified, but he gave it a good try.  He even met with people in the theatre community to find out what they expected to find in a review, and to help him learn what to look for.  And even after Pete Smith took over the helm, I'd still bump into Mr. Vitek at plays.  His coverage had awakened an interest he didn't know he'd had.

A month before I started this blog, a comment was left on the Post website:
" (I) do not understand the situation in HAVING only one Theater Critic
for the Palm Beach POST there are childrens, school and community
theatre's that need reviews to inform the public as well as
professional theatre." - tenacity bob
Of course, this was back when the Palm Beach Post had one Theater Critic, which is one more than they have now.

I'm sure that the Publisher and the Editor-and-Chief have all kinds of whiny and lame excuses for us; drops in subscription base, loss of sales, rising costs.  And you know what? They are only that: excuses.

Guys, you're supposed to be selling NEWS.  If you don't gather NEWS,  if you don't HAVE news, you got nothing we want to buy.  And whether or not you personally like theatre, people see it, and enjoy reading about it. 

And don't tell us there's not enough theatre to justify a full time
critic or two: that's simply an outright lie.  This poor little blog
shows 52 weeks of production all over South Florida; and those are only
the professional shows I glean from the sorry excuse for newspapers we
are saddled with. Something is always in rehearsal, always being painted and built, something new is always in the works.

Palm Beach County - and South Florida - wants to read well-written and informative stories.  We want to know what's happening around town.  And advertising just doesn't do it; we're not stupid.  We know that anyone buying an ad is desiging it to show the product in the best possible light. And that's where the Post is supposed to come in; you are supposed to tell us which of these theaters is delivering good product.  We expect you to tell us when a particular show is particularly noteworthy.

The fact of the matter is that if you want to sell news, you have to have news to sell, and frankly,  when it comes to gathering news, you guys have been dropping the ball.  Why are your sales down? Because your content is down. Instead of getting rid of reporters, you should have gotten rid of your marketing department - and your Publisher and Editor-in-Chief.  You know, the DEADWEIGHT.

Do you know what is most telling about the Palm Beach Post?  Nowhere on their website can you find the names of the publisher OR the editor.  I can't blame them: I wouldn't want to admit that I was responsible for such a sorry excuse for a newspaper, either.

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