Friday, July 17, 2009

Note to Anders Gyllenhaal of the Miami Herald.

Mr. Gyllenhaal:
We understand that Christine Dolen will be away on vacation through August 5th. On behalf of the South Florida theatre scene, we'd like to remind you that it's more important to have an actual Miami Herald review than to have a review in the Herald. Please refrain from the inanity of regurgitating someone else's review simply so you can fill space. Such practices do not serve the best interests of your readers, the theater community, or event those of the Herald itself.

Respect your readers. Respect the theater community. And most important of all, pay heed to your own journalistic integrity. Send Christine out to review once she returns. We'd much rather have an actual Herald review late, than to find a re-print of a review we've already read in one of your competitor's editions.

And trust me, everyone who reads reviews will have read it in its original publication.

The South Florida Theatre Scene

(If you agree, you can send him a note at


  1. But what if we don't agree: what if we think the Herald's job is to review something when it opens so we can decide whether to see it, and that if they can't do the job in-house, better to outsource (or reprint) rather than have nothing?

  2. I am Chris Dolen’s editor and feel compelled to fill you in on some facts that you apparently don’t know. Over the last two weeks, we have used three staff writers and two freelance writers to cover local theater. In addition to Chris, Steve Rothaus had a piece on Friday on Nial Martin and his production of “His Double Life.” Another staffer is working on an article on another production that will appear next week. We have paid two freelancers to cover Spanish-language theater over the last two weeks. And yes, in addition to all that, we have hired Bill Hirschman to review one production for us and to use a review he is scheduled to write for the Sun-Sentinel on a second production while Chris is off. Our responsibility to our readers is to publish the best and most informed theater criticism and to publish it promptly. In Chris’s absence, the writer we believe will do the best job for our readers is Bill Hirschman, regardless of where else his reviews may appear. Respect our readers? Respect the theater? In the last two weeks we have had more writers assigned to local theater than to any other beat except state government and the Dolphins. I don’t think you’ve got any grounds to question our respect for or our commitment to our readers or to local theater.

    Marjie Lambert

  3. The point is that we, the public are not left with "nothing." The HERALD has nothing, but we - the patrons, the producers, and the readers - have the review already; from its original source. It's called the internet, dummy.

    The Herald's job is to send out their own theatre critic to review the show, not to simply fill their pages with whatever they can in a desperate attempt to simulate relevance. Only the Herald itself could make the lame argument that it's better to regurgitate now than to create genuine content later. The idiots running the paper into oblivion only see that they've saved the expense of sending out a writer: they don't understand the actual cost of such short-sightedness.

    And Anonymous, here's the real point; when they vomit up someone else's story, they don't send out their own critic later. We are robbed of a unique perspective. We need more reviewers out there, not less.

  4. Marjie, thank you for commenting, and I have noticed the other writers in the last few weeks. I have linked to some of those stories, and will link to them in the future. (See MONDAYS ARE DARK)

    And that's fine for feature stories. I'm not talking about feature stories. Bringing them up is a classic "strawman" technique.

    The subject, Marjie, is REVIEWS.

    Bill's a great reviewer, and I have no qualms about you hiring him to fill in for Christine, or to augment your coverage. Theatre patrons know him, and his voice. We know where he stands.

    He'd make a great critic for the Sun-Sentinel, and they are idiots for not hiring him full time. And if you hire him so that between them, he and Christine can cover all the shows, great.

    But when you and the Sentinel share reviews, you are absolutely ripping off your readers. The point is that it's not about a story in a paper when it comes to theatre review, it's not about filling space. It's about having several different perspectives available to us. And when you are all sharing one perspective by passing around reviews, you are failing your readers.

    We love and desire reviews by Bill Hirschman: but we absolutely need Christine's views on the plays to contrast his. THAT is how theatre reviews work: you read them ALL, and between ALL of them, you get an inkling of what the truth is.

    Read the linked article to more fully understand my position:

    And please note, I am speaking exclusively about reviews. I don't care who writes the features. Different animal entirely.