Following accusations of censorship, the WGA West’s board has endorsed publishing a modified version of a round-table discussion of guild politics in its monthly magazine Written By.
The board — which decided last month to postpone the piece — voted unanimously Monday night to move ahead on publication of July’s round-table discussion following editing to remove “personally defamatory” statements. The panel appointed a four-member committee to review any possible questions that may arise in the editing.
The WGA West also issued a statement Tuesday denying it was censoring the panel participants.
“The idea the Writers Guild of America West is trying to censor anyone is ludicrous on its face,” the guild said. “Is it censorship any time an editor says an article needs more work before it can be published? If so, then every publication in the country must be guilty of censorship.”
The statement said the WGA is “unwavering” in its opposition to censorship in any form. “There is a difference between censorship and the proper exercise of editorial judgment, as the board of directors of the WGA West recognized in their unanimous vote last night to allow the magazine’s editor to re-edit the round-table discussion to meet the most elementary standards of fairness and accuracy,” it added.
Four of the participants in the roundtable discussion — Larry Gelbart, Lionel Chetwynd and former board members Lynn Roth and Michael Russnow — had condemned last month’s decision and were not mollified Tuesday by the WGA’s statement.
“It’s only fitting that an article on guild politics winds up being a political issue on its own,” Gelbart said.
Roth said the piece would have been killed had the participants not gone public; Chetwynd said the participants need to be given the opportunity to review what’s objectionable, which he contended was originally promised.
Russnow said, “We are pleased that the board’s turnaround last night produced a result that may well prove satisfactory, but not at the false spin the guild has spewed out to save face with the industry public.”
The moderator of the discussion, board member Peter Lefcourt, resigned his post as chair of the Guild Editorial Advisory Committee in protest last month. He said Tuesday the participants were told in July that only libelous material would be edited out rather than material that was “personally defamatory.”
“It would be impossible to have had any type of political conversation with those sweeping limits to the free interchange of ideas imposed, and if we had been told that the conversation was to be so constrained, we would have surely declined to participate in it,” Lefcourt said.