Walton takes hotline in hand to rebut charges

Brian Walton, executive director of the Writers Guild of America West, made a rare appearance on the union’s electronic bulletin board this week in a candid and sometimes humorous attempt to open the lines of communication with Guild members and to take issue with recent charges levied against him.

“The holiday rest did me good,” Walton wrote. “The GROW hotline put a little dent in my enthusiasm, but I’m nothing if not an optimist, so we’ll press ahead anyway.”

Walton was referring to a new hotline started by a group of writers, including Larry Gelbart, that purports to be a writer-generated forum for inside info on Guild business.

On the latest hotline message, the writers again took issue with the foreign levies agreement, saying the board has refused to show members the agreement.

Member Fred Haines said on the hotline that after repeated attempts by Michael McDowell for a copy of the agreement, neither McDowell nor any other writer has seen it.

Walton acknowledged McDowell’s request and said the board decided how to deal with it at their Jan. 5 meeting.

“They will have responses by the end of this week or early next. I will post the correspondence to them here (on the electronic billboard, called BBS),” Walton wrote.

In response to charges concerning the reported secrecy of his employment pact , Walton said the contract’s confidentiality is a long-standing Guild policy.

In Walton’s lengthy BBS chat, he admitted that he has been remiss in directly addressing members through the BBS, although he and the BBS committee are researching ways for him to be a recurring participant on the system.

“Unfortunately, there are real-life obstacles,” Walton said, including the fact that he doesn’t type, he lacks the time to take part frequently, and is “congenitally incapable of one-line answers.

“I can’t log on and give fast, flippant and/or unedited answers because people tend to erect a cathedral around what I say. My position carries a responsibility to be accurate and careful,” he said.

Walton also noted that when factual errors are spread on the BBS, often “they seem to create a wave of anger which then casts whatever it is under a cloud which never goes away … Differences of opinion are healthy; inaccurate info isn’t.”

Under the heading of “Miscellaneous,” Walton wrote: “I generally deny all other allegations on this forum and the GROW hotline about what an asshole I am. I may be one, but not the one described here and there.”

He also noted that he is swamped with work, leaving for D.C. Sunday to attend several meetings with legislators to promote the Guild’s clout and to attend the Presidential Inauguration.

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