WCPN reports on Rosenberg verdict

On Friday, August 6, WCPN, the Cleveland NPR affiliate, broadcast a story (a transcript and link to the audio are here) about Donald Rosenberg’s losing lawsuit against the Plain Dealer and the Musical Arts Association. No new information, but a note from a Case Western Reserve University law school faculty member pointing out that the First Amendment protects journalists from government intrusion; the Rosenberg/PD/MAA case was a purely private matter, so the First Amendment did not apply.

Jury finds against Rosenberg

In a not unsurprising conclusion given recent testimony in the case, on Friday a jury in Cleveland found that the Cleveland Plain Dealer had not discriminated against critic Donald Rosenberg by reassigning him away from reviewing the Cleveland Orchestra’s concerts, nor had the Musical Arts Association, the parent organization of the Cleveland Orchestra, defamed him by making complaints to the newspaper’s management about the alleged personal vendetta Rosenberg had (has?) against the orchestra’s music director Franz Welser-Möst.  The Plain Dealer does not yet have its own reporting on the end of the four week trial (just an Associated Press report.) But the New York Times has a more extensive article, which quotes Rosenberg as saying,“We gave it our best shot. I stood up for what I believed. I don’t regret a moment of it.” Rosenberg declined to comment on any future plans he may have, although his attorney was making noises of a potential appeal. The Orchestra had no comment.

VFB will update this report with a PD link as it is available.

Judge Sutula to Don Rosenberg: PD didn’t retaliate

Donald Rosenberg
Donald Rosenberg
Franz Welser-Möst
Franz Welser-Möst

In one of the more bizarre twists of the lawsuit by Plain Dealer critic Donald Rosenberg against the newspaper and the Musical Arts Association, reported here, Common Pleas Judge John D. Sutula ruled that

reporter Don Rosenberg’s assertion that the newspaper had retaliated against him for filing a suit against the Cleveland Orchestra and the Plain Dealer should not go before a jury because there were “no material facts to dispute.”

He said that that Rosenberg’s attorney had not shown that there was any adverse effect by the editorial instruction that Rosenberg was not to use the words “Cleveland Orchestra” in his writings for the newspaper. The newspaper’s attorney, David Posner, said, “He was told ‘the reason you can’t refer to the Cleveland Orchestra is that you sued the Cleveland Orchestra.'”

The PD reported that on Monday, August 2, that the newspaper had rested its case in its defense. The newspaper’s editors all testified that Rosenberg’s age (remember that his suit is partially one of age discrimination) never came up in discussions of his reassignment. All were in agreement that the reassignment was a journalistic matter, not one of musical expertise, due to the widely held perception that Rosenberg held a personal vendetta against Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst.

On Tuesday it is expected that the attorneys for Rosenberg, the Plain Dealer and the Musical Arts Association will make closing arguments before the case is turned over to the jury.

Rosenberg’s lawyers rest their case; defense begins

In the ongoing saga of Cleveland Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg’s discrimination lawsuit against the paper and the Cleveland Orchestra, during this week the plaintiff’s lawyers rested their case, and the defense began its case. The Plain Dealer reported on Rosenberg’s testimony. Among other tidbits, Rosenberg testified that he thought that Music Director Franz Welser-Möst would eventually have to be replaced. Also:

Rosenberg also agreed, again under questioning by [David] Posner [the Musical Arts Association attorney], that others — including newspaper readers, members of the orchestra and others in the community — had complained about what was perceived as a pervasive negative tenor to his reviews of Welser-Most.

When questioned by his own attorney, however, he testified that he believed [Plain Dealer Editor Susan] Goldberg had responded only to pressures from the Musical Arts Association — not other factors — when she reassigned him.

On Thursday this week the Orchestra began its defense, with expert testimony from a journalism faculty from University of California, Berkeley, specializing in ethics who found that Rosenberg’s reviews had taken a mindset of bias, from being too close to the orchestra that Rosenberg loved.

There was also testimony by Orchestra Executive Director Gary Hanson about the unflattering article that Rosenberg had written about Weser-Möst in 2004, quoting from an interview the conductor had given to a German language magazine without asking the conductor for comment. The orchestra’s expert stated that Rosenberg was at fault for not seeking comment.

The trial continues next week, with the newspaper presenting its defense. The jury is expected to get the case toward the end of next week.

Updates on the Rosenberg/Cleveland Orchestra lawsuit

Last week was a busy week in the courtroom for the age discrimination lawsuit by Plain Dealer critic Donald Rosenberg against the Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Orchestra.  Susan Goldberg testified that her decision to reassign Rosenberg was not a “knee-jerk reaction”, but was carefully considered over fourteen months. In response to questions about an alleged personal vendetta on the part of Rosenberg against Franz Welser-Möst, Goldberg replied:

“Mr. Sindell, this is not a music problem, this is a journalism problem,” said Goldberg, who acknowledged that she did not have classical music training. “And I’m well qualified to make that decision, as are other editors in my office.”

Goldberg was asked by Sindell: “Why do you think my client had a personal vendetta against Franz Welser-Most?”

Goldberg answered that Rosenberg “had become just too wrapped up in the orchestra and did not have the professional distance that we ask everyone to have — whether covering baseball or architecture.”

She also told the jury that Rosenberg had begun approaching concerts conducted by Welser-Most with a closed mind.

“It would be like a restaurant reviewer deciding the steak is tough before he even goes to the restaurant,” Goldberg said. “He puts Welser-Most into a hole before a note is even played.”

An article published on the Plain Dealer web site on July 23, summarizes what has gone on, including the testimony by former Washington Post music critic Tim Page about Rosenberg’s national reputation as a music critic.  The article also contains the rather sensational allegation of “reporter shopping” on the part of Cleveland Orchestra officials to get the Plain Dealer to send reporter Zachary Lewis (who was eventually assigned to review the Orchestra concerts after Rosenberg was deposed) to a news conference announcing coming season programs, instead of Rosenberg.  Susan Goldberg characterizes the practice as “icky” and “sleazy” but “not uncommon.”

It appears that the trial will be winding down in the next week or so.

Franz Welser-Möst testifies by video in Rosenberg lawsuit trial

In its ongoing coverage of the lawsuit by Plain Dealer critic Donald Rosenberg against the PD and the Cleveland Orchestra, the paper reports that current Music Director Franz Welser-Möst testified by means of a video deposition taken in 2009, to the effect that he was angered by Rosenberg’s alleged mis-characterization in a 2004 PD article of an interview that Franz gave to a Swiss magazine, in which the conductor referred to Cleveland’s “blue haired ladies” and to Cleveland as an “inflated farmer’s village.”  In his deposition, Welser-Möst says that he intended the latter comment in a complimentary way, and that Rosenberg took his comments out of context, mistranslating them out of German to English, publishing a very unflattering article about Welser-Möst without asking the conductor to comment on his statements.

Rosenberg’s attorney Steven Sindell has apparently not yet called any witnesses or introduced any direct evidence to support the claim of Rosenberg’s lawsuit, that he was discriminated against on the basis of age.

Rosenberg/Cleveland Orchestra/Plain Dealer case goes to trial

The Cleveland Plain Dealer blog today has details of the opening day of Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg’s lawsuit against the Plain Dealer and the Musical Arts Association, the parent organization of the Cleveland Orchestra.  In the suit Rosenberg alleges a number of supposed misdeeds on the part of his employer, including age discrimination, and that the officials of the Orchestra pressured the Plain Dealer management into removing him from his long time assignment of reviewing Cleveland Orchestra concerts because he reviewed concerts conducted by music director Franz Welser-Möst in a highly unflattering matter.

The summary in today’s blog post rehashes what has been stated before, but sets things up for some potentially juicy testimony during the jury trial.  Stay tuned.

A recent update on the Rosenberg/Cleveland Orchestra matter

The web site of the Cleveland Jewish News has a recent update about the goings on of music critic Donald Rosenberg’s lawsuit against the Cleveland Orchestra.  He has recently changed some of the details of his suit:  when the defendents tried to move the suit to federal court, Rosenberg dropped some of the charges against the Plain Dealer and its editor Susan Goldberg.  The charges of defamation against the orchestra remain unchanged.

There are some interesting comments from Sharona Hoffman, associate dean and law professor at Case Western Reserve University. (Full disclosure: I work for CWRU, and I have met Prof. Hoffman; however, I do not know her well.)  She points out how difficult it will be for Rosenberg to prove age discrimination, and defamation could be proven if someone publicizes lies about him.   “But he’s a public figure who puts himself out there as a critic. It’s much harder to prove that sort of thing if he’s in the public eye.”