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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, May 17, 2010

OffOffOnline vs the Obies

Reprinted from OffOffOnline.

Not Cool Enough for the Obies
Sunday, May 16th 2010
Article by Valerie Work
After having covered the Obie Awards for the past three years, offoffonline has been denied a press pass to the 2010 event, to be held this Monday, May 17, at Webster Hall.

“The management of the Voice has chosen to deemphasize online coverage of this year’s awards,” explains press representative Gail Parenteau, “due to the large number of blogs that are currently discussing New York theater. If you really want to cover the event, you can buy a $25 ticket.”

This intriguing change of position raises a number of questions.

Is it possible that Village Voice Media, having already antagonized numerous members of its own news staff upon assuming management of the paper in January 2006, is now seeking to alienate journalists affiliated with other alternative publications?

An alternate explanation is that the Voice truly does feel threatened by the expansion of online arts coverage, and, rather than fortifying its own contributions, is seeking to weaken perceived competition.

It is no secret that the print media has been hard hit by the recession. On one hand, it’s hard to blame the Voice for attempting to raise obviously needed funds by selling the privilege of writing about its flagship annual event. On the other, it’s still incredibly tacky.


Update: Additional thoughts from CultureBot.


joshcon80 said...

"Is it possible that Village Voice Media... is now seeking to alienate journalists affiliated with other alternative publications?"

Yes. Yes, that is possible.

"On the other, it’s still incredibly tacky."

Yep. It is.

Freeman said...

It seems likely that this isn't a special anger towards online outlets, but maybe an excuse to reduce free ticketing?

George Hunka said...

Unless I'm wrong, that $25 only permitted access to the balcony during the Obie ceremonies themselves: the real treat was always the reception before, which was where the networking and shoptalk conversations took place.

That said, I don't think there are that many more theatre blogs in New York than there were last year -- perhaps even fewer. I don't think the Voice cares any more than the Times about who they invite or don't invite to these things: so far as I can tell, the Voice's theatre editors and writers disdain the online community of theatre writers and always have, hoping to get some mileage in the form of "hip" visibility and free publicity. That they didn't get much last year may have led to this year's decision.

RLewis said...

Seems pretty simple to me: print media income is shrinking, so they're looking for new sources of revenue. So they tried something new, but I couldn't tell that it worked all that well.

VV has been hawking tickets on npr all month, even the after-party alone. The Fela cast was incredible, and I'm sure they didn't come cheap.

Anonymous said...

Since some of your readers may have not seen the original posting and just the comments on Matthew Freeman, I wanted to be sure that Ms. Work's subsequent addendum was part of this discussion. At no time were bloggers, online media or any other particular segment of journalism excluded from covering the 55th Annual Village Voice Obies. As the publicist for this event for the past 16 years,and an outside agency, I had the authority to pick the best representative press corps to report the Obies within the capacity limit that must factor in not only press but theaters, winners, presenters, sponsors, etc. Ironically, when off off online began, and no one knew them, I credentialed then editor Lauren Snyder, and got complaints from other media who were denied. We wish everyone could attend and cover in person every year, but that is not possible. Speculation this had to do with money, importance of online vs. print, tv or radio is simply not the case. What is important is that everyone loves and supports theater, actors and the vibrant and fresh community that makes up Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broaday. This is something Ms. Work and I agree upon. Most kindly, Gail Parenteau, Parenteau Guidance

After a second conversation with Ms. Parenteau, I have come to understand that her initial intentions were not to snub offoffonline or online media outlets as specifically as my article suggests. In fact, due to the scarcity of press passes for this year’s event, the suggestion to purchase tickets was made to other publications as well.