Media on media

I’m going to be on Howie Kurtz’s Reliable Sources this Sunday (about 1045a) talking about the death of critics. Fun part: I’ll be on with Gene Seymour, movie critic at Newsday, who just took a buyout there. I met Gene way back early in his career when I started Entertainment Weekly. A lot has happened to criticism since then.

Here’s my April 2006 column playing taps for critics. Here’s David Carr’s NY Times piece on the trend, which essentially gives voice to producers complaining that they’ll get less free publicity. (But one might point out that if they advertised more in newspapers, newspapers could better afford those critics.) And here’s a comprehensive post in Filmdetail.

What this really gets down to is:
* The dire economic situation newspapers and magazines face.
* The ecology of links that makes local coverage of national beats wasteful.
* The commodification of criticism. When I started EW, I stole an idea for a feature from the Berlin city magazines Tip and Zitty, creating a critical consensus chart that converted all the pundits’ opinions into a letter grade (our conceit). The opinions and their expression didn’t vary widely. The essential consumer service here is: what’s it about, who’s in it, how is it?
* The death of one-size-fits-all media and entertainment. Just because you like it doesn’t mean I have to, not anymore.
* Above all, I believe, this is driven by the fact that we do now and have always trusted the opinions of friends over those of alleged influencers, whether those influencers are newspaper critics, TV commentators, or unfamiliar bloggers.

I’ve said before that if I launched EW today, it would not be a magazine of critics but a site of viewers, a place for peers to compare notes and recommend entertainment to each other. Entertainment should have been the first realm of news coverage to become soclal.

  • Tobe

    Criticism died a quiet death over the last two decades. Media moguls and conglomerates have recently killed off “reviewing”, a very different breed of cat. Criticism provides analysis and evaluation of the artistic, cultural and social value of a work of art (or entertainment). Reviewing as practiced in the contemporary media is a plot synopsis with a description of the performers. This is more of a consumer reports for the viewer (should I go and pay $10 bucks, should I DVR this program).

  • adsl

    there are 1000’s of movie critics up on youtube … nobody needs newspapers to review movies anymore

  • Call me old fashioned but my favourite place to go when deciding if I want to see a movie is Rotten Tomatoes.

    They agregate lots of reviews. And I can ready my favourite critics.

    This stuff about friends is all well and good but most of my friends don’t see most movies before I do and I don’t know what they think unless I ask them. It’s usually simpler to go to Rotten Tomatoes.

    Not to mention that friends — despite being friends — often have surprisingly different tastes, which is why they so often don’t even agree on what movies to go to.

    My friends re what movies to see are the critics.