Wednesday, November 15, 2006

When Mismanagement Isn’t Newsworthy

11/20: Goya found.
To say that there are biases in the old media’s coverage of events is an under-statement. It extends beyond political coverage. One can see disparities in the coverage of turmoil within different professional sectors. Here in New York, there have been failures in local cultural institutions that would be framed as scandalous, if analogous events happened in traditional corporate America.

Yesterday it was revealed that Goya’s “Children with a Cart” was somehow intercepted by thieves, while in-transit from the Toldeo Museum of Art to the Guggenheim. The NYT reports the theft occurred: “in the vicinity of Scranton, Pa., while in the care of a professional art transporter.” According to the F.B.I.: “To vet tips, we’ve decided to release as few details as possible.”

Fair enough, but it certainly begs the question of how this could happen. Who hired the transporter and arranged the logistics? Evidently, the Toledo museum only insured it for $1 million, woefully under “market value.” This seems like a major story involving much mismanagement, but it has been deferentially played below the fold by the media.

Another major failure from the New York cultural scene is the closing of Twyla Tharp’s jukebox musical of Bob Dylan tunes, The Times They Are A-Changin.’ This story however, is hardly shocking, as the show was universally panned. Set in a dark otherworldly circus, the connection to Dylan’s song was obscure to most critics. Most reviews were basically a variation on the theme of “what the . . . ?” Again, according to the NYT: “It lost its entire investment of $8.5 million.” Its closing is hardly a scandal, more a case of fools being separated from their money.

Coverage of A-Changin’suggests this sort of failure is the norm. It is hard to imagine another industry throwing ill-conceived but expensive projects into the marketplace well before they are ready human consumption, time after time. Before A-Changin’ we saw major theatrical train wrecks like Lestat, Taboo, and Lennon briefly stick up stages in at a tremendous cost.

Is it a bias in favor of warm fuzzy cultural types that holds the media’s outrage in check when reporting on this mismanagement and waste? Is it because they generally share the media’s left-of-center world view? By the way, if you see any suspicious looking Goyas you can drop a dime with the Feds in Philly. There’s a reward of fifty grand, which would probably let you buy out every remaining ticket of A-Changin’ before it closes.