Writers Give Tonys a Terrible Review

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
July 15 2009 11:54 AM

Writers Give Tonys a Terrible Review

I sigh even as I type the words "Tony Awards"—that everyone I know, even in an arts-obsessed workplace, chuckles every time I mention them says all you need to know about the place of Broadway theater in the larger cultural scene—but yesterday’s decision to ax journalists from the ranks of Tony voters has led to some of the most scabrous reviews of recent memory, and deservedly so.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

/blogs/browbeat/2009/07/15/writers_give_tonys_a_terrible_review/jcr:content/body/slate_image

People used to be warned not to pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel; in the age of the Web, it’s probably advisable not to piss off the people who make their living by distinguishing junk from genius.

Advertisement

The justification for the change was skimpy to say the least: "the Management Committee took into consideration the fact that certain publications and individual critics have historically pursued a policy of abstaining from voting on entertainment awards in general, to avoid any possible conflicts of interest in fulfilling their primary responsibilities as journalists." Huh? Broadway Stars’ Matthew Murray translated that into English: "It's a conflict of interest for journalists—who live by the standards through which their very jobs and statuses within their professional community exist, and don't work professionally on shows or with people they write about—to vote for the Tony Awards, because they might write about the shows they see. But it isn't a conflict of interest for hundreds of other people to vote for themselves, their friends, or the shows in which they have a vested, public, and frequently financial interest."

Time Out ’s Adam Feldman put it best in Upstaged, the magazine’s theater blog:

[The decision] represents another regrettable step toward the marginalization of critics within the New York theatrical community. It is true that critics do not vote for the Oscar or Emmy Awards; but theater is an inherently more local and personal industry, in which critics have historically played an important role. (Not for nothing are Broadway theaters named after Walter Kerr and Brooks Atkinson.) But critics, and indeed criticism, are inconvenient to the modern theater marketer: Old-fashioned in our insistence on quality, unreliable in our support for expensive projects and less necessary in light of the diffusion of information in the Internet Age. We can expect to see more such gestures of exclusion in the future, each chipping away, as intended, at the status of critics within the theater world.

Photograph of Liza Minnelli by BRYAN BEDDER/Getty Images.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 6:30 PM The Tragedies That Have Shaped Canada's Gun Politics
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.