Smart and honorable

Amazing, heartening followup to my recent post, about my students’ ideas for what should have happened in Cleveland. I’m told that the Detroit Free Press, back in the ’80s, actually did what my students recommended.

Their critic back then gave bad reviews to the music director of the Detroit Symphony, who at that time was Gunther Herbig. That wasn’t a comfortable situation, and symphony supporters made a fuss to the newspaper’s publisher. But instead of caving in, the paper did something wonderfully smart and honorable. It brought in three critics from other cities, from the Philadelphia Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and (ironically, given what happened this fall), the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Each reviewed two of Herbig’s concerts, and these reviews ran along with what the Detroit critic wrote.

The result? The guest critics agreed with the local one, and the outcry stopped. What a triumph for decency, good sense, and smart handling of a tricky situation, above all because it cost the Detroit paper money, since they had to pay to bring the outside critics in. Maybe newspapers today, since they’re losing money, would hesitate to spend anything on a project like this, but still — what the Detroit Free Press did in the ’80s makes the Cleveland Plain Dealer look very, very shabby.

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