(Almost) Everyone's a Critic

Letters published December 18, 2002

The following letters furnished by the Coalition to Reinstate Keith A. Joseph (Keith A. Joseph, treasurer):

I am very sad to hear that Scene's arts editor has decided to fire Keith A. Joseph as its theater critic. For over 10 years, I have looked forward to Keith's witty, insightful theater reviews, which so often inspired me to whip out my dictionary and look up one of his legendary adjectives. Words such as "pulchritudinous" enriched my vocabulary and augmented my dexterity with crossword puzzles. There is no longer any reason to pick up Scene, except perhaps to line our bird cages.

Paul Christopher
Cleveland Heights

One less reason to read:

I've just heard about your firing of longtime theater reviewer Keith Joseph. As a performer, while I certainly don't agree with the reviews of every reviewer, whether of my own work or someone else's, Keith's quirkiness, appreciation of the absurd, embrace of the new, and knowledge of the players in Cleveland theater was valued by many.

First the Free Times folded, and we lost the words of Jim D'Amico. Maryann retired a couple of years ago, and we are left with Tony Brown at The PD, who seems to hate the work of most of the performers who live here while consistently lauding anything produced out of town (why does he live here again?). And now Keith is gone.

Perhaps if you replaced him with someone from out of town who knows nothing about Cleveland theater or the history of the actors, writers, directors, and technical experts who live and work here, he or she might better represent the "lofty standards" of the Brave New World you're creating at Scene. Shit, you've been running theater reviews so rarely over the last year or two, I don't know how you can even call your paper an "arts" weekly. And I don't believe I've ever seen any mention of what's going on in the thriving Cleveland indie film circuit, just reviews of the latest Adam Sandler offering.

The reasons to continue picking up this paper every week are becoming less and less apparent.

Nina Angeloff

It's not too late to unfire him:

I am very surprised and deeply saddened by your decision to fire Keith Joseph. In doing so, you have taken away the very reason I have been reading your magazine. Joseph's reviews, whether or not I agreed with his opinions, were always witty, incisive, and fun to read. I strongly suggest that you reconsider your decision and beg Joseph to consider returning to his job before you lose more readers.

Adina Bloom
South Euclid

We hear he's still available:

I was very sorry to learn that Keith Joseph's theater reviews will no longer be part of Scene. He is a well-respected presence whose reviews -- spicy and sarcastic though they might have been -- were something that I looked forward to. I think it's a mistake to kill off the local personalities with a unique style and something to say. Scene has been around for a long time, but you seem to be cultivating a "born yesterday" look that has nothing to do with Cleveland. If you want to practice alternative journalism in Cleveland, then you need to cultivate alternative voices like Keith Joseph's. I hope it's not too late to get him back in print.

Jean Seitter Cummins
Cleveland Heights

What happened to quirky but fun?

The recent firing of theater critic Keith Joseph is a great loss for our theater community. Yes, his reviews were often quirky, wry, and opinionated, but always such fun to read. He loved the art and knew when it was good and when it was phony. He was not afraid to tell the truth.

Scene has an obligation to step up to the plate and become more than a "rock scene" advertising circular. You need to celebrate and talk openly about the state of the arts in the Cleveland area. You need to cover more of the work of small struggling arts organizations in town, not less. You may want to bring new voices and opinions to your staff; that is fine. But I hope you will reconsider the silencing of one of our community's unique, caring, and dedicated writers.

Sarah May
Cleveland Heights

Another Lake County mystery solved:

I really enjoyed reading Sarah Fenske's investigative report "Forty Weddings and a Petro" [November 20]. The Lake County editor of The News-Herald seems capable only of clouding this issue and making dumb-ass remarks like "How do these two-bit investigations get started?" and "Is anyone in Eastlake running a temperature over these 'misdeeds' by the mayor? If so, a cold shower may be in order."

Fenske, to her credit, made it look all too easy uncovering additional information that wasn't revealed in the Fox 8 I-Team report, like the Petro connection and the $46,000 he was paid for doing nothing.

Since this is the third time Fenske has scooped these good 'ol newspaper boys in their own backyard, I'd say they should seriously consider a career change. Way to go, Sarah, for your due diligence in solving this mystery. And hats off to Scene for publishing this and other great stories.

Kevin Dresser


No evidence? No problem:

Scene has a long way to go to establish itself as a credible journalistic alternative in this town. Stories like Sarah Fenske's innuendo-laced smear job of Eastlake Mayor Dan DiLiberto and state Auditor Jim Petro certainly don't help your cause.

The facts on which she based her exposé are pretty thin: A political opponent of DiLiberto's alleges the mayor improperly pocketed money he received for performing weddings. The state auditor's office, after investigating, decides a special audit is not called for. DiLiberto goes on to clean the opponent's clock in the election. What's more, all this happened more than a year ago and received media coverage at the time.

Not much there, but the resourceful Fenske still managed to write her way onto your pages by implying that the fix was in with the auditor. And why would Petro tank the investigation? Because his brother, William J. Petro, was working as a consultant to Eastlake on the minor league baseball project.

Fenske doesn't have a single shred of evidence that anything happened. But that doesn't stop her from trashing the reputations of two public officials long known for their integrity and honesty, not to mention a dead man. Even she acknowledges the paucity of her case against Petro and DiLiberto -- state ethics law, she admits, "does not seem to impugn" Petro's actions. In any event, Petro's brother was dead by the time the regular audit was conducted, so he was hardly in a position to pull strings on DiLiberto's behalf. Even the political opponent who started it all is "loath to cast stones" about what Fenske admits is "petty corruption at most."

So why write the story? And why did Scene choose to package it with a headline that speaks of "pilfering wedding fees" and illustrate it with a graphic showing a cigar-smoking politician surrounded by stacks of money?

This is not alternative journalism. It is cheap, sensationalistic, unfair gotcha reporting.

Kelly Vagianos
Middleburg Heights

Bush's war is a corporate cover-up:

Rather than mock demonstrators, as Martin Kuz did in "Confessions of a Virgin Protester" [November 20], he should write an article as to why the Bush administration wants to do this all of a sudden. Could it be that Iraq has the largest untapped oil reserves in the world? Could it be a way to distract the public from corporate crime and those politicians who facilitated it?

Another question to ask is why our government, American corporations, and European corporations were more than happy to sell and provide chemical and biological weapons to Saddam in the '80s. Yes, inspectors should be allowed back in, but an invasion should not be the first choice. That is what the protest was about.

As for an "obvious desire to hate George Bush in public" being a reason for marching, that is an unfair generalization. While some may "hate" GWB, don't equate that with opposing heinous environmental policy influenced by campaign contributions, subsidies to multibillion-dollar companies, lax corporate crime oversight, and excessive military spending. And don't equate hating Bush with opposing an unprovoked attack that may be avoided through inspections.

Carolyn Unger