That was quick
Chalk it up to the speed of light – or the speed of bits over the Internet. On Monday:
Opera News, 76 years old and one of the leading classical music magazines in the country, said on Monday that it would stop reviewing the Metropolitan Opera, a policy prompted by the Met’s dissatisfaction over negative critiques.
The Metropolitan Opera learned on Tuesday that censoring the press, even your in-house press, does not lead to good publicity.
Just a few hours after it emerged that Opera News, which is produced by an affiliate of the Metropolitan Opera, would stop reviewing the Metropolitan Opera, the Met announced that no, actually, it was changing its mind and Opera News could keep running reviews. ..
“From their postings on the internet, it is abundantly clear that opera fans would miss reading reviews about the Met in Opera News. Ultimately, the Met is here to serve the opera-loving public and has changed its decision because of the passionate response of the fans,” the Met wrote in a statement. Bravo!
In ye olden tymes (say, pre-1995), this is a story that people in New York and other coastal enclaves would have learned about the day after from reading the New York Times, and a few of the rest of us might have learned about days later had our local paper picked the story up from the wires. Those upset about it would have written letters (either by hand or on their typewriters) to the Met in protest, which would have dribbled in over a period of a week or so via the USPS.
But in the 21st century, within hours of unpopular decision being announced, a tsunami of emails and online commentary simply overwhelms the ability of the decision-maker in question to deal with anything else until the decision is made to go away. The irony, of course, is that the Met is one of the most tech-savvy arts institutions in the western world – and still didn’t see this coming.
We had a similar example of the new accelerated speed of controversy a couple of years ago when a member of an audition committee posted a rather negative comment to Facebook – from the audition – about his/her perception of the quality of auditionees at that days’ screened auditions. Of course the local critics were FB friends of the poster, and our PR department was fielding inquiries within an hour or so of the posting, which meant that the management and union were dealing with it not very long afterwards.
Fortunately the situation was resolved with no damage or negative PR and nothing similar has happened since. But it was an education in how problems that used to emerge as a black cloud no bigger than a hand on the horizon can now arrive – like ICBMs – with no advance warning at all before leaving large craters in an institution’s reputation.