Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Herald "spin cycle" doesn't wash.

I've received a lot of positive response to my article calling out the Herald and the Sentinel for their use of each other's reviews.

Not everyone agrees with me, of course. From one of the comments left on that story:
I am not a fan of the column sharing practise, but I still don't think the Herald should get knocked for this incident. The are the ones who are pushing forward in the face of this crisis. They should be commended for being the only local paper taking a risk and giving us the coverage we deserve.
- Antonio Amadeo
And it's true that the Herald has superior arts coverage in South Florida. Their reviews are the most prominent in the market, their critic the only one with a blog to supplement her alloted space in the newspaper proper. And Christine does review more plays, in more places, than anyone else. Antonio is absolutely correct.

But look at two of the shows missed this last weekend:
Really? These are shows that are OK to miss?

Christine Dolen of the Herald addressed this in today's blog entry, which starts off explaining that she was in New York, seeing productions that virtually none of her readers will ever be able to afford to see. But I do understand that a theatre critic has to drink from the Original Source, as it were, to maintain a perspective of what a Broadway show really is, and how our local productions compare.
Also while I was away, Havana Bourgeois opened at Actors' Playhouse, Dumb Show at The Promethean Theatre, El inconveniente at Teatro 8, and Yankee Tavern had its world premiere at Florida Stage. I plan to catch up with the shows, but because we didn't want readers to wait, we picked up Bill Hirschman's Havana Bourgeois and Dumb Show reviews for the Sun-Sentinel and sent him to review Yankee Tavern for The Herald; Mia Leonin covered El inconveniente for us. Just a little inside-baseball note on the Herald's continued commitment to theater coverage.
Uh huh. I found all of Hirschmann's reviews on the Sun-Sentinel, first - including the Yankee Tavern review, which appeard with a Sun-Sentinel byline when it first appeared on the Herald's website yesterday. The Sun-Sentinel still seems to think it's their review:

which sort of contradicts the Herald's "Special the Miami Herald."

But you know what? The problem hasn't changed: two papers, one review. Will the Sun-Sentinel now hire Dolen to review the show? Because that's the only way to put things back in balance at this point
...we didn't want readers to wait
Dolen's blithe response is indicative of a deeper problem with our local news dailies: they are completely out of touch with the 21st century.

Here's the point that Dolen - and apparently everyone running the Herald and Sentinel - have missed:

Their readers are already NOT waiting.

We're not waiting for the paper to show up at our door; we're using the internet. If we're not surfing the web, we're using an RSS feed that brings the latest news to our desktop. Or to our cell phones. I get the reviews minutes after they're posted. Waiting? Are you f***ing kidding me?

We're looking for different perspectives on the story. Regurgitating someone else's review not only doesn't give us a different perspective, it wastes our time.

My South Florida News feed aggregates all the latest stories from all three of our major dailies. Right now I have to wade through 30 articles to get 10 stories. Actually, 8, because the Sentinel tends to have some stories twice under slightly different headliines. God knows why.

But while we're not waiting for stories to show up, we are still waiting for something:
Christine Dolen's reviews of the three major plays that opened last weekend.

And we won't be satisfied with copies of Bill's reviews. Not that we didn't like them. But we've read those. Old news.

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