[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/65837?ns=guardian&pageName=Noises+off%3A+can+anyone+be+trusted+in+the+blogosphere%3F%3AArticle%3A1309929&ch=Stage&c3=GU.co.uk&c4=Theatre%2CStage%2CCulture+section&c6=Chris+Wilkinson&c7=09-Nov-25&c8=1309929&c9=Article&c10=Blogpost&c11=Stage&c13=Noises+off+%28Stage+blog+series%29&c25=Theatre+blog&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2FTheatre[/img]There's angst abroad as theatre bloggers are accused of spinning gossip and hearsay as fact and truth. But the real drama lies in working what is and isn't true
Don't believe everything you read – that's the message from the blogs this week. Nick Fracaro of the Rat Sass blog has been getting angry about what he sees as the increasing disregard for truth or accuracy in what is reported on the blogosphere. His problem, he says is that: "we are entering a new era of personal, subjective theatre 'talk-writing'. This new genre of 'journalism' doesn't appear to have inherited the same protocol and/or ethical standards of its predecessor."
Fracaro cites the example of a recent post on the extra criticum blog that claimed to be exposing some dodgy dealings going on at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Centre. He argues that even though this article is based almost entirely on hearsay and has been proved substantially wrong, it has been reported by several other writers as if it were plain fact. "This type of conversation" he says, "once belonged almost exclusively to the informal chat of dinner parties.
Now it has thoroughly permeated our written, public record ... rumor apparently no longer need make concessions to fact."
This argument has struck a chord with other bloggers. 99 Seats points out that "most shows, especially the small ones, depend on word of mouth to generate an audience and word of mouth is just gossip that benefits you. It's built into the DNA of what we do." The trouble is that this results in a culture in which no one is able to fully trust anyone else, because "gossip, rumor and innuendo pass for information and not just about projects or who's sleeping with who, but artistic intentions and career motivations. Everything is suspect and everything is fair game. Sometimes working in this field feels like one long, unending circular firing squad." And Isaac Bulter at Parabasis confesses that he sees in his own "posts an almost immediate suspicion the more $$$ or the more success someone or some institution has."
Of course, one might argue that this kind of gossip and rumour-mongering is not nearly as far from the world of 'real' journalism as Rat Sass likes to think. One only need read Nick Davies' book Flat Earth News, or watch the documentary Starsuckers to see how quickly misinformation can spread in the print media.
The irony is that, rather than being guilty of constantly spreading malicious falsehoods, bloggers usually get accused of being far too nice about their peers, and about theatre in general. For instance, Rob Weinert Kendt at the Wicked Stage draws attention to this interview with the playwright and blogger Matt Freeman where he says: "I'm increasingly wary of blogging because I am a playwright first, and feel no particular urge to piss off literary departments or get caught saying unkind things about Charles Isherwood or whatever. As I've become aware that people actually do, in fact, read what I write, I've become a lot more careful." Either way, it seems, it can be difficult in the extreme to figure out whether anyone ever really means what they say. But then surely, most great drama thrives on precisely that chasm that exists between what's said and what is actually meant?
On a completely different note, I leave you this week with three theatrical videos from across the web. They range from the sublime (this Edward Bond interview that George Hunka is linking to) to the silly (this rather joyful version of Grease from Don Hall) and the downright ridiculous (this video of a drunk man falling over on Matt Trueman's blog). This final video has nothing to do with the theatre save for the fact that Trueman bizarrely but rather brilliantly draws parallels between the drunk's movements and the choreography of Pina Bausch. Go see it for yourself.
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Guardian: Noises off: can anyone be trusted in the blogosphere?
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