Freedom of press & journalistic integrity Luca Pisaroni as Maometto II and Leah Crocetto as Anna in the COC’s production of Maometto II, 2016, photo: Michael Cooper

Freedom of press & journalistic integrity

Jenna Simeonov

A weird flurry of news came out via Norman Lebrecht of Slipped Disc yesterday. First, it was reported that Arthur Kaptainis, opera reviewer for the National Post in Toronto, had his review of the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Maometto II removed from the Post’s website. “When COC read his review for Mametto II [sic] online in the National Post they sent over a complaint to demand its removal,” wrote Lebrecht. “Unbelievably, the weak-kneed newspaper obliged.” He included a link to the same review, subsequently published on Musical Toronto. He added, “This is a major press freedom issue. Cancel the National Post until it apologises and beware of an opera company that is able to reduce national media to submission.”

Lebrecht then posted an update, after Jennifer Pugsley, the COC’s Media Relations Manager, clarified that they had not requested the review be taken down, but that corrections be made to a few errors by Kaptainis. Lebrecht quoted some of the correspondence between Pugsley and the National Post, adding, “She’s telling the Post: we don’t like your critic. The Post promptly pulls his review. Strong, independent press? Doesn’t look like it.”

In a second update, Lebrecht reported that the review had been restored to the National Post online. Under his headline, “Canadian Farce: National Post restores suppressed review”, he called the erroneous original critique, “the opera review by Arthur Kaptainis that provoked a protest from Canadian Opera Company.” Lebrecht closed with the vague statement, “someone seems to realises [sic] they crossed a line.”

Pugsley also added a comment of her own in the original Slipped Disc story, offering up her full correspondence with Dustin Parkes of the Post. In it, Parkes wrote a few problematic sentences: “I really hate running reviews for performing arts. They simply get no attention online, and almost always end up as our poorest performing pieces of digital content.” There’s a whole other conversation to have about this part of the story, as Anne Midgette of the Washington Post has already done. For now, we want to focus on the reporting by Norman Lebrecht.

In a story that was apparently about freedom of press, it’s frustrating to read Lebrecht’s posting of incomplete stories, full of opinions and phrases like “suppressed review,” “protest,” and “sniffing glue,” all of which are clearly biased against the Canadian Opera Company. We’re really glad to see how the COC was quick to be transparent, and to clarify the errors and omissions by Lebrecht.

Look. We’re all eager for spikes in readership. A post with some scandal behind it is an exciting thing for journalists. But we hope Lebrecht finds value not only in freedom of press, but also in journalistic integrity.

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