The future of the critic
from Jay Rayner in The Observer.
At least those of us in Britain who make our living from our opinions are still gainfully employed. Across America it's a different story. Paid newspaper critics from a number of disciplines are being laid off or redeployed, their judgment deemed superfluous to requirements in the age of the net. Book review pages are becoming increasingly skinny. Television sections are disappearing. In April, Sean Means, the film critic of the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, used his blog to publish a roll call of his movie-reviewing colleagues who, since the spring of 2006, were no longer in the opinion business: 'Steve Ramos, Cincinnati CityBeat, position eliminated ... Jami Bernard, New York Daily News, contract not renewed ... Michael Atkinson, Village Voice, laid off ...' At that point it ran to 28 names across the US media but since then it has stretched inexorably on.
Others soon started taking notice, with both the entertainment industry journal Variety and the Los Angeles Times publishing large pieces on the death of the critic. As Patrick Goldstein put it in the LA Times: 'Critics are being downsized all over the place, whether it's in classical music, dance, theatre or other areas of 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 any more - it seems clear we're in an age with a very different approach to the role of criticism.'