Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coming Up Short on the Grandin at the Daily

Those eagerly awaiting (more than two weeks) for the local daily newspaper to weigh in on the recent unpleasantness at the Grandin Theatre got arts reporter Mike Allen's best shot this morning in his Sunday column. Day late, dollar short is what it used to be called, but we'll not quibble with the lateness, just the lack of original reporting.

This was a warmed-over re-hash of a smattering of what has taken place on Internet blogs (scroll back on this one if you're interested), a new petition drive and on Facebook. The 'net has fairly crackled with information, updates and calls to arms (and even defenses of the status quo on occasion). There was absolutely nothing new or revealing that I could see in Allen's piece. He had blogged very briefly about the dustup a couple of times in the past two weeks, but even that was almost completely non-revelatory (he ran the board chairman's lame explanation of what was going on most recently, but without comment or any other reporting and, frankly, behind my release of it hours before).

Let me mention here that Allen has done some good work in a lot of areas as a newspaper reporter in the past and that he is fully capable of doing the job here. He's also a guy who is interested and involved in the arts (good actor and writer for the stage), so I don't think this is something that bores him.

The Times will tell you that it couldn't do much here because none of the principles was talking and there's some value to that point of view. It is a value that the 'net snubs its nose at in allowing all parties equal access to its immediate communications capability. The daily newspaper serves a good journalistic purpose in that it jumps through the proper hoops on its stories. That does not always result in truth--God, do I have examples!--but it almost always results in fact. Almost always. The two are not necessarily synonymous.

What we got from the Internet reporting-cum-gossip-mongering was a picture of a dysfunctional elite operating order and a gaggle of upset supporters and patrons who didn't like what they saw and were ready to talk about it to anybody who'd listen. Over the past two weeks or so, I have listened to a lot of people, called a lot of people, reported what I could when it was on the record and I think a picture has evolved. Others have done similar work, much of it heated and emotional. I don't know what the result has been yet, except to unify the protesters, but I don't think it's over, either.

Adam Greenbaum, who runs movie theaters like the Grandin (independents) in Staunton and Charlottesville has expressed (to me in a pretty long conversation) his interest in either owning or running the Grandin. I gave him some contact info so he could talk to the people in charge. He has been looking for a place in Roanoke to open a theater for about a year and sees a possibility with the Grandin. The daily has not reported that at all and it is a potentially important element here.

Frankly, I think the 'net has outperformed the daily in this instance and it could well be a harbinger of what's coming.

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