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Tony Phony

July 15, 2009

I am trying to wrap my head around the news that as of next season, theatre journalists will no longer be part of the Tony Award voting process. As a story in yesterday's New York Times explained:

"In a significant change to voting procedures for the Tony Awards, the Tony Management Committee announced Tuesday evening that about 100 theater critics and journalists -- about one-eighth of all Tony voters -- will no longer be eligible to vote in the competition for Broadway's most prestigious honor...An official close to the committee, who was not authorized to discuss the committee's private deliberations and therefore spoke on condition of anonymity, said the change was made because the committee concluded that it was a conflict of interest for journalists to vote on Tony contenders when they have a platform to champion a show in news and entertainment media."

Why does the Tony Committee believe that journalists present a conflict of interests problem? Surely the other people who make up the Tony decision-making body -- a group consisting of "theatre producers, owners, publicists, actors, writers, designers and members of various Broadway theater unions and committees" as the NY Times story lists them -- pose a greater threat from a conflict of interests perspective?

Journalists are, as far as I can tell, the most impartial members of the group and are less likely to be swayed by cronyism. They are, in all likelihood, in a much better position to see a wider range of performance events than producers and other theatre insiders. This move makes no sense to me. Removing journalists from the decision-making pool for the Tonys will make the awards even less credible than they currently are.


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