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A special Crosscut admission of error and expression of humility

Remember that news report we ran about the guerilla-art installation at the Sculpture Park? No? Good. Never mind.
A new work is briefly installed at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. (Greg Lundgren)

A new work is briefly installed at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. (Greg Lundgren) None

It doesn't quite call for an investigation by the Washington News Council, but like the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Crosscut, too, owes itself a flogging and would like to share its humiliation with readers. On April 30, 2007, at approximately 4 p.m., Crosscut posted an apparent eyewitness news report that should have set off alarm bells, raised red flags, raised eyebrows, strained credulity, and elicited snorts from the editor's desk – but didn't. Forehead-smacking occurred much later, when Seattle Post-Intelligencer art critic and legendary journalist Regina Hackett blogged about the event with proper context. Our article, "A one-hour artwork in the new Olympic Sculpture Park" by Greg Lundgren, was, as far as we can tell, factually accurate, but the author's apparent detachment was not genuine. People dressed in white really did build a swing set in the Olympic Sculpture Park to mock the Seattle Art Museum's hands-off policy regarding the more-permanent collection, but Lundgren did not happen upon the event. He helped plan it. Arts scenesters knew this, of course. The rest of us rubes did not. Lundgren is the L in JDL, the conceptual art team credited with placement of the replicant eaglets near Alexander Calder's "Eagle" sculpture and with orchestrating the swing-set installation. Lundgren tells us he didn't mean to deceive us and is sorry for the confusion. That's fine. He's an artist whose job it is to blur the lines of whatever. Our job is to sharpen the lines, and in this we failed. We'll do better at spotting mischief next time, and Lundgren says there will be a next time: "PDL has a very active year ahead and we would love to keep your readers abreast of performances and installations, both advertised and discreet." Note to self.

Chuck Taylor is formerly editor of Crosscut. He has also worked for The Seattle Times and Seattle Weekly, and now blogs at Seattle Post-Times. You can reach him at chuck.taylor@newsdex.net.


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Comments:

Posted Sun, May 6, 5:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Choose this day whom you will serve...Joshua 24:15: Chuck Taylor writes:

"Lundgren tells us he didn't mean to deceive us and is sorry for the confusion. That's fine. He's an artist whose job it is to blur the lines of whatever. Our job is to sharpen the lines, and in this we failed. We hope to do better next time, and Lundgren says there will be a next time: 'PDL has a very active year ahead and we would love to keep your readers abreast of performances and installations, both advertised and discreet.' "

I'm no expert, and Mr. Lundgren, for all I knew, is a professional journalist, so I had no real choice but to accept his story on the sculpture park as objective journalism. Shame on me!

Isn't there some rule in your business that those who report the news shouldn't also make the news they report? And POV commentary ought to be labeled as such with the writer clearly pointing out any interest he or she might have in either the events chronicled or the POV expressed? Seriously...what are the rules?

And it seems a trifle odd that it's a given that Mr. Lundgren will continue as a Crosscut contributo since there's nary a peep from him either acknowledging or apologizing for misleading your readers. While Chuck Taylor does the honorable thing by falling on his sword and taking one for the team, where, besides some exculpatory comments attributed to him, is the aforementioned malefactor's mea culpa? Or is he still out swinging?

The Piper

Posted Sun, May 6, 7:03 p.m. Inappropriate

RE: Choose this day whom you will serve...Joshua 24:15: I didn't mean to leave the impression that Lundgren will be writing for us further in a journalistic capacity. I just meant that we haven't heard the last of him and PDL.

Posted Mon, May 7, 9:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Wheres the crime here?: Sort of a tempest in a commode, if you ask me.
Its true, he did not identify himself as a participant- but there was no attempt to mislead anyone for personal benefit, no financial gain, and the article was accurate.
Its not really all that different from David Brewster writing as a journalist about the new Seattle Center plan, of which he is a major proponent?
Sure, he identifies himself as such in his article- but he IS a professional Journalist.
Lundgren is a professional prankster, artist, and gadabout- and if he is clearly identified as such in his bio/tagline, I see no big problem with his continuing to write for you.

This is not like taking money from a developer, then writing favorably about his project, or, even similar to taking an artwork from an artist, then reviewing his or her show- this is in the spirit of the artwork, and in the spirit of Lundgren in general, and it adds to, rather than subtracts from, the general level of interest in Crosscut.
Ries

Posted Tue, May 8, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

A legend in his own mind...: IMHO, Chuck Taylor showed class in falling on his sword over the Lundgren affair. Integrity...I like that.

It's not a tempest in a commode; it's an issue of credibility. Lundgren puffed his own work and got free publicity. If I want to puff my work, I have to buy an ad. He didn't tell the truth, he got outed for it, and now he suffers the consequences.

And shouldn't someone who touts himself as having spent 30-plus-years in public art also identify himself as having a vested interest in supporting Lundgren's POV? Certainly, any comments made by me on anything published on Crosscut having to do with Highland piping or Scottish arts will be preceded by a full and fair disclosure that I used to be a competitive piper (NOTE: I said competitive, I didn't say winning competitive) and that I favor kilts over trews.

It's perfectly OK to have a POV or seek to have your work publicized, but fundamental fairness dictates you should label it as such.

The Piper

Posted Wed, May 9, 9:37 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a soapbox, isnt it?: The line between journalism and "free publicity" was blurred a few hundred years ago, if not longer.

I would propose that Lundgren is an asset to Crosscut, but that if you must, you identify him in a bio/blurb at the beginning of anything he writes as an artworld agent provacateur.
There is a long history of writers who involve real or imagined feats of their own in their narrative, while actually writing readable and enjoyable stories.
Hunter Thompson, Lester Bangs, Micheal Herr, and many more great journalists of various sorts have included their own exploits in their stories.
The airwaves and print media are lousy with "personalities" who contribute very little beyond self aggrandisement.
The Lundgren article was not untrue in any way, it just failed to reveal the writer was a paid consultant to the industry he was writing about- oh, wait, no, that is not true here- only true about most mainstream coverage of business, politics, entertainment, and so on.

I do have a personal enthusiasm for anyone poking fun at the stuffy Seattle establishment, but I have never met Mr. Lundgren, nor would I personally profit in any way from his activities.

Crosscut was fooled, once. I doubt they would be fooled again, by Lundgren, but thats no reason not to print his missives.
Ries

Posted Wed, May 9, 5:03 p.m. Inappropriate

You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right...: Lundgren puffed his own garbanzo beans without disclosing that they were his garbanzo beans...and he got caught!

Arts reviewers shouldn't review their own "art." Or at least they should let the public know the lofty words they pen are about and will benefit themselves. And comparing what Lundgren did with David Brewster writing on something he favors doesn't wash. With Brewster, we already know his POV. Lundgren, on the other hand, deliberately kept his participation in...whatever the Hell it was...secret. That, my friends, is unethical.

Lundgren had an absolute and unwavering obligation to fully disclose his participation in...that...up front so that the reading public would be in the best possible position to evaluate his comments. Shame on him for not doing that.

Is this a soapbox? In a lot of ways, yes. But it shouldn't be Lundgren's personal advertising agency for...stuff...he has a hand in producing. Like I said before, he can buy an ad! That department is way down the hall, take the elevator to the street level, go through the double doors, and wait on the yellow line on the asphalt. They'll be with you momentarily.

The Piper

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