Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes had a lengthy conversation yesterday with KCRW general manager Ruth Seymour about his coverage of critic Edward Goldman's potential conflicts. In his latest post, Green quotes Seymour's view of the allegations against Goldman and she addresses how music spinners at KCRW can also work for record companies and on Hollywood sound tracks.
When we talked yesterday evening, I asked Seymour if it was OK for an on-air critic to personally profit from his position, particularly from access provided by a public radio station.
"I've known Edward," Seymour said. "He's worked for us for 20 years. He's been wonderful for the art scene here in Southern California...Ed talks to people who are outside the world, people who are not as knowledgable about art, and he is sometimes able to communicate his own passion for art. There is no way Edward would ever write a review that he did not believe in."
I told Seymour that I hadn't suggested Goldman ever wrote something he didn't believe. I said that the ethical questions that gallerists raised were partly related to things he had said on-air and partly related to how he leveraged his position as an on-air critic to demand questionable kickbacks (or, to use a much more permissive term: beyond-the-industry-norm commissions) from galleries.
"But to quote these anonymous people who won't even give their names!" Seymour said. "Why do you believe them?"
I explained that I knew who they were, I had independently checked out their stories and that the stories were solid.
For there to be a problem "there has to be a direct fiduciary relationship between the guy putting the record on the air and also being a stake holder in the record," Seymour said, using a music analogy because KCRW is a national leader in indie-music broadcasting. Then Seymour told me that she didn't believe the gallerists who talked to me and suggested that they were using anonymity to lie....
In our entire 30-minute conversation, despite my repeated attempts -- and even taking the specifics of these two cases out of the equation -- Seymour never told me if it was OK for a critic of hers to demand kickbacks from galleries or if it was OK for him/her to promote something on the air and to then attempt to profit from it. "It exists on every level," she said about conflict, suggesting that KCRW's listeners should just learn to live with it. Earlier in our chat she told me that, "anybody who appears on KCRW... hopes that it will somehow further their career."
Green posted yesterday afternoon on another alleged instance of Goldman using a review to leverage a sale for a client, based on an anonymous gallery owner.