After embroiling themselves in controversy over a particularly stinging review of celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant, The New York Times’s new Public Editor Margaret Sullivan energetically defended the paper’s right to levy harsh criticism in this Sunday’s opinion editorial.
“Is it ever really acceptable for criticism to be so over the top, considering that there are human beings behind every venture?” she asked rhetorically, addressing the critics who thought that Wells was too harsh. “I think it is. That kind of brutal honesty is sometimes necessary. If it is entertaining, all the better. The exuberant pan should be an arrow in the critic’s quiver, but reached for only rarely.”
Citing examples of the best takedowns from renowned music, film and theater critics throughout literary history, Sullivan argued that by the simple virtue of having enormous stature as a celebrity chef, Fieri’s restaurant was not immune to the Gray Lady’s harshest criticism. “The Times can pass on reviewing, for example, an independent filmmaker’s fledgling effort or an art exhibit in a small gallery,” she differentiated, “but it is committed to reviewing major concerts, films and theater productions, whatever their quality.”
In short: Sorry, Mr. Fieri, you can’t be immune from the harshest criticism — it’s the nature of art.
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