RE: Underscoring the importance of objective review sources,

Gary Handman (
Mon, 20 May 2002 09:35:48 -0700 (PDT)

Thanks for this note Chip. I have not seen this particular review, but, as
a long-time reviewer myself, I must comment that I think I'm with the
editor in commenting that "reviewers call their call." That, in essence,
is what free speech and a free press are all about: the right to call the
call, popular/unpopular, even stupid and misguided... Over the years I've
been called by more than a fair number of film producers and distributors
who have been mightily pissed off by my negative (or even luke-warm)
review. I've gone back and looked at a film again to be sure my first
impulses were correct, but I've never backed down on my initial
judgment. Most reviewers I know work hard at the craft. Most of us shoot
for at least a modicum of balance...although the very act of reviewing
generally entails bringing a point of view and a familiarity with similar
works to bear.

I do think the editor owed you some comment space, but I shudder to think
what would happen if reviewers or their editors "recanted" each time an
irate author or filmmaker disagreed with his or her call...

Gary Handman

At 08:08 AM 5/20/2002 -0700, you wrote:
>Dear Videolibbers,
>Recently I read what I describe as a slanderous review of a program I
>distribute, "Pakistan Frontline: Staring Into the Nuclear Abyss"
> from the "War on Terrorism
>Series." I immediately wrote a two-page letter to the editor explaining in
>detail how I felt the reviewer had made a serious error in judgment about
>the program and requested his magazine either print a retraction or include
>(a portion of) my letter, as many fine magazines such as "Smithsonian" and
>"National Geographic" do, stating my disagreement with this particular
>review. He refused my request, stating “their (the reviewers) call is their
>call” and asked me to look the other way by adding glibly “I understand that
>you're upset, and I sincerely hope that when all the sturm and drang
>subsides you will continue to submit programs for review.” I explained to
>the editor that I felt the reviewer had crossed the line with this review
>and since the editor felt he had to support his reviewer and would give me
>no opportunity for retraction, I could no longer support his magazine by
>submitting programs for review. For me, the subject matter was too important
>for educators and librarians not to know there was a differing opinion, and
>principle had to rule.
>Ironically, the next day I received the following review of the same program
>from "Booklist": “This eye-opening program looks at the long-standing feud
>between Pakistan and India. Thanks to a fearless reporter and fellow
>cameraperson, this program offers a firsthand view of life along border
>areas. The growing threat of nuclear war seems to hang like a mythical sword
>over these two beleaguered nations."
>As a liaison for a team of investigative reporters who literally risk their
>lives to obtain these objective news stories for Americans, I take my
>responsibility to get these programs distributed very seriously; and I feel
>our schools and libraries are a vital place for these types of programs to
>be made available to the public. Many educators and librarians depend on
>objective review sources such as "Booklist," "Educational Media Review
>Online," "The Library Journal" and "School Library Journal"; so I write this
>letter not to promote my efforts or this program, but to thank each of these
>vital review sources that continue to give documentaries that are a vital
>resource to our citizens a chance to be seen. I wish to underscore my
>sincerity in this communication, and faith in this program, by offering any
>educator or librarian a FREE VHS copy of this program simply by emailing me
>Although there has not been another serious attack on America since 911 that
>does not mean that America or Americans are not at risk. There has been
>death and destruction in many parts of the world, and I for one cannot allow
>heroes such as Daniel Pearl to be forgotten. Our nation and people need
>objective and informative sources of information and, beyond the reporters
>that I represent, I salute the educators, librarians and review sources that
>continue to support similar values ­ without you the efforts for peace could
>only be more difficult to achieve.
>I sincerely thank you.
>Chip Taylor, President
>Chip Taylor Communications
>2 East View Drive
>Derry, NH 03038
>V: 603.434.9262
>F: 603.432.2723

Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley, CA 94720-6000