Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A CRISIS FOR CRITICS

PATRICK GOLDSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES -. Critics today are viewed as cultural dinosaurs on the verge of extinction. Most of the attention lately has focused on the demise of film critics. The Salt Lake Tribune's Sean P. Means actually posted a list of film critics, now totaling 28, who have lost or decided to leave their jobs in the last two years, including such notables as Newsweek's David Ansen, the New York Daily News' Jack Mathews and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington.

Critics are being downsized all over the place, whether it's in classical music, dance, theater or other areas in the arts. While economics are clearly at work here -- seeing their business model crumble, many newspapers simply have decided they can't afford a full range of critics anymore -- it seems clear that we're in an age with a very different approach to the role of criticism.

Obviously the Internet has played a big role in this shift. . . Whenever I spend time with young students, I see an even more intriguing concept at work. Although they are heavily influenced by peer group reaction to films or music, they do listen to critics, but largely as a group, not as individual brands. The age of the singular critical voice is ending -- people prefer the wisdom of a community.

Having just spent an evening with students studying entertainment reporting at the USC School of Journalism, I asked them Friday for their take on critics. Nearly everyone said that when they want to read up on a film, they often go to metacritic.com or rottentomatoes.com, websites that offer a healthy sample of critical consensus. As student Victor Farfan put it: "They put all the reviews in one easy, convenient, conglomerated source that gives you a breadth of opinions from trusted sources and some less familiar ones."

Other students acknowledge that they put little stock in critical opinion, lumping it in with the cascade of hype that accompanies today's entertainment. "We tend to be wary of anything that seems over-hyped, whether it's by critics or over-advertising," said Courtney Lear. . .

To be fair, the media is also responsible for undermining its critics' authority. Scores of TV's film critics have become quote whores, willing to say anything ("Awesome!" Fox TV's Shawn Edwards enthused about the woeful "Drillbit Taylor") to get their names atop movie ads. The news weeklies often devalue their star critics by using them to deliver exclusive interviews with big-shot filmmakers, allowing the studios to create some much-needed aura-by-association for their summer blockbusters. . .

The flaws extend beyond film. In pop music, especially at top-of-the-food-chain publications like Rolling Stone, critics have a distressing tendency to pull their punches for leading artists. . .

2 Comments:

At April 9, 2008 1:25 PM, Blogger xilii said...

Of course, you also don't need seasoned critics to tell you that 90 percent of what comes out of Hollywood and the music industry is crap anyhow.

 
At April 10, 2008 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course it is. As per Sturgeon's law, 90% of everything is crap.

 

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