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.