The New York Film Critics Circle has decided against a threatened crackdown on members who report on behind-the-scenes details of voting on awards this Monday.
Fears ran high that members may be booted if they tattle on vote scores and other details of balloting after leaders responded furiously last year to one member blogging live during the vote session and another blabbing goings-on via Twitter.
Last year, circle chief Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly was so furious about the "betrayal of our group's confidentiality" that she told Gold Derby a similar violation of the group's bylaws would result in a "stern response." When asked if that meant that a member who reveals vote scores would be ousted from the circle, she avoided a direct answer, saying, "Reporting the vote scores will not be tolerated."
The bylaw she referred to states that "only the final vote from the final ballot shall be revealed to the public," but some members claim that's ambiguous. They believe the bylaw refers to what's revealed officially by the group, leaving individual members to rat on specifics of the voting process. Schwarzbaum told Gold Derby that she disagrees, but she's no longer an officer this year.
So we put the question to the circle's two current officers: Chairman Armond White of New York Press and Treasurer Marshall Fine of Star magazine. A few weeks ago, they presided over a business session of the circle where the matter was discussed in detail, then voted on by members.
White said members will not be permitted to blog or tweet live during the voting conclave, but "we're now allowing members, if they choose, to write about the vote and other films in contention later when they write about the meeting. But that will be their version of reporting. It will not be legitimized by the circle, so it will amount to gossip. There will only be one official winner announced per category."
Fine added, "While the bylaw clearly states that only the final vote shall be revealed to the public, it doesn't say that someone should lose their membership if they report the scores."
Both White and Fine said the chief problem is what industry sources do with information about which award contenders came in second, third and fourth place.
"A few years ago, a studio ran an ad saying that their film was an official runner-up for one of our top awards," Fine said. "I had to call them up and ask them to remove that from the ad because we don't have official runners-up."
By contrast, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. does announce official runners-up, and the National Society of Film Critics not only publishes runners-up but the point scores that each contender reaped.