As first detailed in this post, it all started a while back with DMV artist Barbara Januszkiewicz noticing and asking a Facebook question about the annual Washington Projects for the Arts fundraising Gala auction (disclaimer: I’ve been part of this auction multiple times in the past). You can catch up on that issue/question here.
Subsequently, and as a result of the nearly 2,000 comments that Barbara’s question received, the Washington City Paper’s freelance scribe Kriston Capps conducted an interview with the WPA’s newish Executive Director Peter Nesbett. The interview initially missed the key question, but that question was subsequently added in a revised version of the interview, which can be read online here.
I then commented on Nesbett’s answers in this post, essentially noting that Nesbett had missed a golden opportunity to use the Facebook commenting as a perfect way to start a constructive dialogue with the WPA’s artists’ members. Instead he doubled down on his perception that the Janus Facebook post was as triggered as result of Barbara’s personal issues with him, and his public criticism of her work. You can read that post here.
Following the Capps’ interview, the Facebook attention shifted to what many commenters considered Nesbett’s massive foot-in-mouth answer and inexplicable introduction of the race and age card into the discussion.
And not for the first time… cough, cough… DMV artists also began to find issue with Capps’ interview, which many opined only showed one side and failed to present a response from the person (Barbara J) who was essentially being somewhat attacked with claims of aggressive emailing (to Nesbett).
Criticism of Capps’ article mounted in several comments, as well as some defenders, one noting that:
“There's a lot being asked of a 2000-word interview that earned the author $15 (WCP blog freelance piece fare).
At the least you got Nesbitt, on record, outside of Facebook, doubling down on putting his foot in his mouth, and then miraculously sticking a second foot in his mouth.
But, let's not overlook the original substance of all of this: Barbara's legit criticism of the auction, and questions from others on auction functions, to which Nesbitt answered Capps' summary of questions.
That’s a great point, which shifts Capps’ interview flaws (more on that later) by highlighting the fact that it was via this WCP interview that Nesbett truly stepped on his crank big time.
As I myself noted in the FB comments, I think that the main issue with Capps’ interview is that as soon as (in a "subjective" newspaper article… awright, an “interview”) a point of view (in this case from the interviewee) says something or claims something (or in this case: accuses) about the other side (in this case a person... in the Capps' case Nesbett about Barbara's "aggressive emails") , then one would expect the journo to approach the second person and see about the triggering comment/accusation (is this true Barbara???)
Especially since Barbara’s has stated in various FB comments and separately that this allegation is false, and yet, no one contacted her to verify or get her comments on what Nesbett claims was the main trigger point for the complaint (sour grapes).
It is bad journalism, but arguably passable for just an "interview"by a freelancer done for fifteen bucks… cough, cough.... I can't jump on Capps too much for this... but it is a missed golden opportunity!
Especially when compared to this article in the HudsonValley-Times, where writer Paul Smart does a brilliant job of reporting on Nesbett’s strange experience with the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. It is not an interview, of course, but Smart does a damned good job of documenting all the strange allegations against Nesbett as well as his point of view and responses. That article ends with the Guild’s President noting that “It’s frightening for me to think of how many people out there were frightened by his words…”