Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Metropolitan Opera to "Met Futures" blogger: Shut it down.

Bloggers beware! It seems that the general counsel at the MET has cornered one of my blog-eagues into taking down his 15 year old blog. No joke, Chiclets!

Zachary Woolfe writes for The New York Observer:
...Since 1996 Brad Wilber, a reference librarian and crossword puzzle enthusiast, has published Met Futures, an online list of repertory and casting for upcoming seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. Drawing on information in the public domain and tips from sources, it’s a valuable, dependable, much-loved resource, providing a wide-angle view of the Met’s artistic direction and singers’ choices. (Anna Netrebko is singing her first-ever Tatyana in Eugene Onegin in 2013-14! La Donna del Lago has its Met premiere two years after that!)

This being opera, the list has also been the fodder for gleeful gossip, with a small but influential readership. Its updates have been regularly picked up by other blogs, and Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, has referred to it in interviews.

In May, Mr. Wilber was contacted by the Met for the first time. He received a phone call from Sharon Grubin, the company’s general counsel, who asked Mr. Wilber to take down Met Futures. Though Mr. Wilber, 41, has long included a disclaimer on the site (“Keep in mind that although I try to post only solid information, the information should always be treated as merely speculative. I am in no way affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera”), the Met didn’t think it went far enough.

“She said their uppermost reason was that the site contains errors,” he said in a phone interview last week from his office at Houghton College, a small liberal arts school about 60 miles southeast of Buffalo, “and those errors, whatever percentage, create mistaken expectations on the part of the public, even with my disclaimer. And that it also sometimes muddied negotiations with artists. They said that that created difficulty for them.” ...

... The list never included Mr. Wilber’s own speculations, and he was diligent about adjusting incorrect information. “I made pretty sure that I didn’t put up something that I hadn’t seen in print or on a website or in a direct communication,” Mr. Wilber said. “I never ever put any guesswork or assumptions on there.”

But Mr. Wilber agreed to remove the list, which he did early last week. “I’m not by nature an especially subversive person,” he said. “And I always told myself that if it got to the point where the Met expressed concern I would take it down.”

Representatives from the Met’s communications department offered him some CDs, which he accepted, and they spoke with him about the tone and content of his farewell post. (In response to an interview request, the company released a statement: “The Met asked Mr. Wilber to please stop providing unconfirmed information about future seasons, and he agreed.”) ...

...Hopefully Mr. Wilber will reconsider his decision and put his list back online. But even if he doesn’t, I spoke with other bloggers who expressed interest in hosting a similar feature. It would be deeply unfortunate if the Met attempted to pursue such a weak case against any of these people, who would almost certainly lack the company’s legal and financial resources. The fact that the company cannot seem to control leaks of information, to Mr. Wilber and others, is not the bloggers’ problem. It’s the Met’s. ...

... “If the departure of the Met Futures list leaves you missing it,” he said in the farewell post on his site, “I’m sorry about that. I will really miss it too, you can be sure. But I plan to continue offering the Met all my usual forms of support — attending performances in the house, going to the cinema for live-in-HD presentations, listening via radio, etc. I hope you’ll do the same."
I encourage you to check out the article in it's entirety at The New York Observer website. Also, make sure to follow Zachary Woolfe on Twitter @zwoolfe.

And, to Mr. Wilber: I have always had the highest regard for the Met Futures list and for your work in aggregating information. You are welcome to post here anytime - just visit my Contact page and let's get the ball rolling!

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