Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's A Long Road to Turkey Point

I was going to write some random casting news today, but instead I come to you with a timely public service announcement: Do not believe everything you read. Please. Even if it is on this blog. Blind trust is bad (believe only that).

Why do I feel compelled to write this now? Well, about a month ago I heard that Cry-Baby was being delayed in Seattle. Now I thought this news had been reported when I was out-of-town and not paying attention, so I was surprised to read it everywhere just today. I was also saddened when I read it because it brought to light something I have long known--journalists spout press agent bullshit like it's fact. You see, Cry-Baby is not really being delayed because there is no available Broadway house. That's a crap excuse--convenient but not 100% true. If Cry-Baby was in great shape and had a cast, it would be doing its tryout this winter, regardless of the housing situation. It would have back-up deals on some Broadway houses and be ready to come in when one became available. I love the Cry-Baby score, I am a fan of its producer and I support it wholeheartedly, honestly, but the truth is, not many people left its recent workshop thinking the show was ready to go. It needs work and two new leads who they have yet to find. I respect them delaying it to deal with these issues--that is what should be done. And, also, I understand the production's need to use a excuse that does in fact have some merit and won't hurt the future of the show. This is all wise on their part. But it just upsets me a little to read it Variety: "The 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle has delayed the pre-Broadway tryout of the tuner adaptation of John Waters' Cry-Baby because the production could not lock in a Broadway theater for an immediate transfer to Gotham."

Again you may ask "why?" If I agree that it's wise to use such an excuse and I want the production to succeed, it should not bother me when that excuse is printed. Yet it does. The reason is, journalists should not print things like they are 100% factual, when it's not clear they are. I understand writing things according to a production statement, lord knows I've had to do it even when I knew that the statement was crap. I mean--we all knew in our hearts Jenna Elfman was never rejoining Nine, but they said she was, so that was the thing to write. But then, blame the production for the lie. In other words write: "While Elfman will not start on schedule, she will be rejoining the production at a later time, according to a production spokesperson." That last part after the comma is key. If you write these things without attribution to the production, you write it as if it is 100% fact and it's often not. You then have an untrue report. It's not like this is the reporting of a factual thing, such as "the production lasted two hours," this is the reporting of an unverifiable causal relationship. Such things, when written in news stories, should be attributed. End of story. I know I am guilty of not always following this rule--I am sure you can find stories where I stated non-factual items as fact (don't send them to me; I am already admitting guilt)--but it's the wrong thing to do as a journalist.

And as a reader, I believe I have the right to know where such things come from. Is this the reporter's opinion? Is it coming from the production? Does it belong to a random expert? Are all people "in the know" saying the same thing? We all need to question the source of the information. That is what people in an educated society should do. But, unfortunately, sometimes things are just stated as fact and we don't know anything else. We don't know where it came from--we cannot fully analyze it. As readers, we do not typically call journalists and say: "Hey--is this really true? Who told you?" I doubt they'd like it... I know I wouldn't... So, sometimes as a reader you just need to make up your mind.

I urge you to be skeptical of all things (especially ones that are not totally verifiable and/or supported by a large amount of accompanying facts). Don't believe just because it's in The Times or Variety it is true. Think.

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