Journal: Decline of the (Daily) Newspaper Critic

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From the Hartford Courant . . .

The era of the newspaper film critic, the era of newspaper criticism, seems to be coming to a rapid and unceremonious end.

As recently as a decade ago, no self-respecting mid-sized daily newspaper would have dreamed of publishing without a film critic.

These days only major cities have them and those that remain (other than Ebert) have seen their influence wane.

Daily newspapers are trimming full-time critics faster than they can grow back.

Classical music critics have either been phased out or reassigned to jobs that combine multiple tasks under one heading.

This isn't just happening in mid-sized cities such as Hartford, but in large metropolitan cities, such as Minneapolis and Atlanta, where critics have either been eliminated or had their jobs redefined to include duties outside their expertise.

There is business sense to these cutbacks.

As classical music's audience continues to shrink, along with museum attendance, opera attendance, ballet attendance and newspaper readership, arts coverage has withered with it.

Rather than pay specialists trained to cover such events, newspapers are more often relying on stringers, who get paid per story, to review performances.

Staff writers have often been put to work producing that quasi-journalism best described as "infotainment," a word that crept into the language in the era of "Entertainment Tonight" and certain to survive in the final edition of Newspeak dictionary for Orwell's "Oceana."

At The Courant, which, at the beginning of the decade, had full-time critics for film and classical music, nearly all reviews (other than for rock music) are done by stringers or staff members working outside their main job description.

The national reaction to the disappearance of critics has ranged from outrage to yawns.

Those who love the art forms that are being pushed increasingly to the margins have taken their disappearance as yet another sign of the apocalypse.

Full story . . .

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