Ethics and thanking the media

Yesterday’s newsletter on artist ethics prompted these questions from Peggi Habets:

I was wondering what the etiquette would be concerning a positive art review in the paper. Is it acceptable (or expected) to say thank you to the art critic? Or is it a no-no to contact the art critic to thank them?

Lucyandsofie
Yes! By all means send reporters and critics a Thank You note. You will, of course, want to make it a handwritten one. (See Action 10 in I’d Rather Be in the Studio!) Do it as soon as possible after the review or article appears.

It is not acceptable to send a Thank You to a reporter or critic before the review is written. That could be considered an attempt to sway them one way or another as they are writing. So, if you wait to send a Thank You until after the article appears, you’ll be ethical AND thoughtful.

Image ©Peggi Habets, TJ and Tilly.

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11 comments to Ethics and thanking the media

  • Isn’t the burden on the writer to remain unbiased by any friendly overtures that an artist might make? So much of making a living in this field is about networking, and writers and critics are certainly part of the network. Couldn’t writing a thank you note after a good review or story be considered to be used for softening them up for a second good review or story? Where does it end. If I run into a reporter out at a restaurant and send a bottle of wine to their table am I being unethical? Clement Greenberg was a influential art critic who regularly hung out with many artists of his era. Who was being unethical in the relationship? Jackson Pollock for having Greenberg to his farm for a weekend or Greenberg fro writing a good review of pollocks work following the visit?

  • Oh my gosh! Every time I have gotten any kind of press I do handstands, scream loud, and send out numerous cards and letters. I feel it is a sincere gesture and just plain good manners! Also, I am sure it helps to make the writer/critic feel good about her/his job. It helps them to realize how they are making a difference. :-)

  • I think in the case of Greenberg and Pollack it was important for Greenberg to get to know the artists he wrote about. It is all part of the research process and getting to know your contacts. As a senior journalism, public relations, and art history student I would have to say that a good thank you note is good manners. Sending a bottle of wine is sucking up and if it happened to me I might be uncomfortable by the gesture. Other journalists wouldn’t say the same thing, most would accept small gifts. An expensive bottle of wine would make me feel like the artist was trying to buy my good graces and that would be unethical. One thing people have to keep in mind is journalism is all about being objective. You can write all the notes you want and send all the gifts you want but if your art doesn’t deserve a good review then don’t expect one. As a journlist I wouldn’t be able to bring my personal feelings toward a artist into my writing.

  • How were Greenberg and any of the artists he wrote about different? Did his relationships with the artists not color his judgment? If not, are today’s writers weaker and less able to separate their writings from their relationships?

  • I really think that you would have to ask Greenberg himself how his relationships with artists changed the way he wrote about them. Perhaps hanging out with artists on the weekends did play a lot into what he wrote. Maybe it had nothing to do with it at all. Every journalist is different. Some uphold the standards of journalism very well, others are blatently biased. Something to keep in mind is Greenberg probably spent a lot of time writing about artists, therefore he spent a lot of time with the artist. Chances are he formed some friendships. You can’t begrudge a journalist to hang out with his friends even if he does write about them. I think that if a journalist’s relationships make his or her writing weaker then that is just being a bad journalist especially if the journalist is pretending to be objective.

  • Thank you for making my point. The art world is very small. You spend a lot of time with these people, socializing with them at gallery openings and receptions. Friendships and relationships are cultivated. You can’t, and shouldn’t, shun writers and critics.

  • Terrific conversation here. My advice above came from two different reporters–not necessarily art reporters. I stand by it.

  • I think that part of the difference is that art critics are not “reporters”. They’re under no obligation to be impartial and unbiased as reporters are allegedly supposed to be. People that write about art are “editorialists”, offering opinion in lieu of facts.

  • Exactly! Greenberg was a critic, not a journalist. His job was not to be objective, but rather to have opinions and write about them.

  • I still think that YOU can maintain stronger ethics practices by not trying to sway opinion.

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