To drive away the clouds louring o'er this house (and just before Christmas, too) I wrote yesterday to Mr Andrew Jaspan, Editor of The Age. And I instantly felt a lot better.
It probably won't achieve much, beyond slamming shut the teeny tiny door that has allowed me to masquerade as an opinion journalist in The Age now and again. (Though I have a feeling that I've already been crossed off Opinion Editor Ray Cassin's Christmas card list.) But it seems worth saying, all the same. I've been watching the most interesting things in Melbourne get squashed flat for 25 years and, my dears, I'm sick of it.
With any luck Mr Jaspan is squinting over his morning coffee at this letter:
250 Spencer St
Melbourne VIC 3001
December 21, 2006
Re: Balanced arts coverage in The Age.
Dear Mr Jaspan
I am writing because I am concerned about the balance of arts coverage in your newspaper. I am sorry for the length of this letter, but I wish to say clearly why, in this instance, I am moved to write.
I am a former journalist (Melbourne Herald, Melbourne theatre critic for The Bulletin) who now writes fiction for a living. One of my activities is the blog Theatre Notes, a theatre review blog I began in 2004. Since it began, it has become a respected and credible voice in the arts world: it was highly praised as an exceptional blog in the introduction to SMH arts writer Angela Bennie’s collection of criticism, Crème de la Phlegm (MUP), and your dance critic Hilary Crampton recently noted it favourably in an article on criticism in Artshub. And so on. I mention this in case the word “blog” makes you think of teenagers on My Space.
Occasionally I freelance - I review for the ABC Radio’s The Book Show and have written opinion pieces for your newspaper, usually in response to current issues of one kind and another. If you’d like to check them out, they are online. One of them, published on July 29, was a very different opinion on the Melbourne Festival than those expressed by Robin Usher and Peter Craven in your newspaper.
Last week, at a lunch for “key media people” to which I was invited, along with Raymond Gill, Robin Usher and other selected arts writers, MIAF announced that Kristy Edmunds’ term as artistic director was to be extended. Predictably, given his history of such pieces, Robin Usher then wrote an opinion piece (December 14) slamming that decision and attacking Edmunds’ programming. It was, in my view, a very slanted article that omitted some important points. Early on Friday morning (December 15), I submitted a short piece of my own (attached) to Opinion Editor Ray Cassin outlining a counter-argument. It was a little bit rude, but not much. I can’t see anything wrong with it as a lively piece of opinion writing.
Cassin’s first email reply was, I thought, very odd. He said:
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