The editor of another publication here in the Triangle area published a screenshot of something we posted on our Beltline to Broadway Facebook page out of context. Since many of our Twitter followers are not on Facebook, I am posting the original post, unedited, in its entirety, here. The original post was posted on October 27, 2021, on the Beltline to Broadway Facebook page.
I’ve read so many of your social media posts over the past 24 hours, some of which have praised Beltline to Broadway and our approach to arts journalism. I would like to believe our coverage is balanced, as we not only write theater criticism but also conduct interviews and engage in live chats and conversations with theater makers about the creative process.
We see you. We hear you. Thank you.
One thing I know for sure is that every theater reviewer I’ve ever met, fundamentally loves the theater. We all have different writing styles, work experiences, and lived experiences. It is through that personal lens that we approach any show. I am most concerned that many of you have called for the elimination of reviews in our area. If you celebrate a free press, you can’t censor any press, regardless of how you feel about their writers or writing. That is a slippery slope, friends.
At the same time, you can’t censor comments or squash public discourse. That too threatens our democratic process, something I learned the hard way after someone posted a comment that rubbed me the wrong way on a public forum. He had commented on a review I posted, and I (along with my “competitors” who quickly came to my defense), engaged in a series of emails, outside the public eye of social media, in which he pointed out 1) that he had as much a right to comment on my posts as I had to post them; and 2) I should respect my readers’ opinions, just as I wanted them to respect mine. What we all can do, together, is engage in a public conversation about how we care for our artistic community AND at the same time, how we can cover and report on work being produced fairly and equitably. Some of these conversations are already happening outside the public eye of social media, initiated by theaters, and we are happy to be part of that discourse.
Social media (overall) has become a cesspool of negativity and toxicity. Be respectful to one another. Be mindful that all of these comments on public forums, center the focus on the review and away from the work being produced, and may in fact hurt the very community we all claim to love.
Roy Dicks set a gold standard for writing theater criticism in our community. He is my teacher and friend, and I spoke to him at length when I first started writing theater criticism. I will repost a link to our conversation in the comments, which might offer a different perspective. (Here is a link to that podcast episode).