Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The New York Press and Armond White

I've not been a great fan of Armond White's work these last few years, but hanging your writer out to dry - as the New York Press has by posting a poll on their website inviting readers to vote for the embattled critic's "worst recent review" - seems to me something that you just don't do. As long as a writer is in the employ of a particular publication, it should be that publication's duty to stand by the writer, provided he doesn't engage in such illegal/immoral activity as plagiarism or libel. And, no, bad critical judgement doesn't qualify as such an offense. If the Press is dissatisfied with White on this last count - as they may indeed have reason to be - then it really isn't fair to either the critic or to their readers to continue the association.

Rather the publication seems to want to have it both ways: to retain White because of the circulation that his name still brings to the paper, but to simultaneously acknowledge their understanding of the declining quality of his work. But if, as the poll seems to suggest, the only reason to read White's reviews is to poke fun at them, then what self-respecting paper would continue to run them? Given the critic's long tenure with the Press, the importance of the writing he did for the paper in the '90s and the respect that should be accorded a figure with his standing in the critical community, the least the publication could do is to allow this once influential writer to go out with a shred of dignity. When newspapers get desperate, apparently they resort to desperate measures, but humiliating your own writer should never have been an option.

The editors of the Press have changed the wording of the poll to "which Armond White review did you disagree with the most?" while offering a brief explanation of their decision to post the survey in the comments section.


Andy said...

Are they hanging him out to dry, or are they trying to celebrate his status as "the movie critic everyone loves to hate" or some such?

Ed Howard said...

That's undoubtedly pretty lousy editorial support. I'm no fan of White either, but that's not right. They may very well think they're playfully acknowledging his status as a "love to hate" kind of critic, but the way it comes off is more like them slagging their own writer.

andrew schenker said...

I don't think there's anything celebatory about the way they've phrased the poll. I don't know what the paper's intention was in including it, but if you want to position your critic as the "man you love to hate" you don't characterize his reviews as universally bad. You might ask readers to choose which one of his reviews is the "most controversial" but to ask them to pick the "worst" is to publicly impugn your writer's skills and to insist to your readers that they need not take him seriously.

SoMars: Literary Journal of Mayhem and Hysterics said...

I read about this and it seems ambiguous at best that they use him for this purpose even if it is to attract more readers to the paper, it is a kind of defamation of character or propaganda...

Wow Jones said...

The New York Press OFTEN disrespects Armond White in this manner, if you've noticed.

Oh well. At least you guys have taken note.

Wow Jones