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Wednesday, February 5, 2003

AJ's Idle Speculation Just Small-Minded Generalizing

By Andy Buelow

To whom it may concern:

I was surprised by the theorizing included in your brief about the departure of Executive Director Steven Ovitsky from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (2/5/03). You speculated that he was forced out by the Board because he was too cosy with the musicians.

As a former senior staffer at the MSO, I worked closely with Steve for years. In my experience, the Board honored and valued the musicians and respected Steve for the positive relationship he built with them. It disturbs me that you would post idle speculation, concerning a situation about which you have no first hand experience, on a web journal read by many people throughout an entire industry. Such small-minded generalizing perpetuates the "us-against-them" thinking that has plagued the orchestra industry for years, and has no place in responsible journalism.


Andy Buelow


AJ Contributing Editor Sam Bergman replies:

As the ArtsJournal staffer who wrote the blurb to which Mr. Buelow refers, I wanted to explain how the blurb came to be written the way it originally was. In reading the article on Mr. Ovitsky's departure in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I found there to be four major points of interest, as laid out by the author:

1) Mr. Ovitsky had resigned, and was leaving the organization almost immediately, which is unusual.

2) The MSO's board stated flatly that he was not forced out.

3) Mr. Ovitsky enjoyed unusually high levels of support among the MSO's musicians.

4) The musicians' contract is up for renegotiation this season.

Tom Strini made all four of these points quite clearly in his article, albeit spread out over 500 words or so. In summarizing the article, I felt it was important to include all four of these points, and since our blurbs are short, the four points became essentially the entire body of the blurb.

At no time did I allege, or intend to allege, that Mr. Ovitsky was driven from his post for being too cozy with the musicians. But since Mr. Strini, who covers the MSO on a daily basis, felt these were important points to make, I felt it essential to reflect that in my blurb, particularly since so many such announcements are transferred from press release to newspaper with no commentary at all from any independent reporter. After hearing from several people connected with the MSO, all of whom expressed similar sentiments to Mr. Buelow, we made the decision to pull the last line of the blurb in order to remove any doubt as to our motives. I am sorry that Mr. Buelow and others felt the blurb to be mean-spirited. It was not intended to be so.

Sam Bergman
Contributing Editor

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