New York Times To Boycott Disney Screenings, As Backlash Among Critics Builds


UPDATE: The New York Times said it will not attend advance screenings of Disney films until access is restored to the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper issued a statement today, adding its voice to a growing chorus of journalists criticizing Disney for imposing a news blackout on the Los Angeles Times in response to a story it disliked.

“A powerful company punishing a news organization for a story they do not like is meant to have a chilling effect,” the New York Times said in a statement. “This is a dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.”

Earlier this morning, the Television Critics Association executive board issued a statement taking issue with Disney’s “punitive action” against the Times‘ journalists.

“The Television Critics Association understands that screeners and coverage opportunities are a privilege and not a right,” wrote TCA President Daniel J. Fienberg. “But we condemn any circumstance in which a company takes punitive action against journalists for doing their jobs.”

The action comes as four film critics’ groups took the extraordinary step of denouncing the media company’s actions — and voting to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until the news ban is lifted.

“Disney’s actions, which include an indefinite ban on any interaction with the Times, are antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a dangerous precedent in a time of already heightened hostility toward journalists,” the critics wrote in a joint statement.
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics noted how difficult it is for journalists to take actions that might penalize artists for something that’s beyond their control.
But Disney’s decision to punish the Times‘ journalists, rather than engage in a public discussion of the issues raised in a story about Disney’s business relationship with Anaheim, raises a larger, more troubling issue, the critics noted.
“Disney’s response should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included,” the critics said in their statement.
The media giant said it imposed the blackout in response to coverage it described as “biased,” and illustrating a “complete disregard for basic journalistic standards.”
The timing of Disney’s decision to bar Times critics from advance film screenings appears weighed to inflict maximum damage. The studio has been screening Disney/Pixar’s latest animated film Coco all week, with perhaps the year’s most hotly anticipated movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, due out December 15.
The journalistic backlash against Disney is building, with the pop culture writer for the Washington Post, and those working for such entertainment sites as The A.V. Club and Flavorwire, saying they would curtail coverage until the ban is lifted.

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