Probing question: What's the impact of citizen reviews?
Thu Dec 6 2007
What do you make of the rise of the citizen critic—the idea that everyone’s a critic, but now they have a blog, or a vlog, or a webcast?
Welcome to America.
Jenny Davidson, editor, Light Reading
Everyone can voice their opinion, yeah—but I don’t have to read it.
Linda Stasi, TV critic, New York Post
The Internet should come with a warning label: Beware any blog that has the words musings, thoughts and ramblings in it. This is as clear a sign of the bad, boring amateur writer as deer poop is for a hunter. Hey—I don’t call myself a surgeon because I’m fascinated with medicine, do I?
Linda Yablonsky, critic, Artforum
Anyone who has ever had a drink at a bar knows how people love to hear themselves talk. A blog is just another barstool.
Illustration: Nathan Huang
I hope we can agree on new terms now that distinguish chatroom from blog, and perhaps critical blogs from online personal diaries. I have no baby pictures on my blog.
It is a curse of the human condition to think you have something to say, but it’s not new. I’m much more concerned, however, when CNN starts to outsource its actual news operations. Citizen criticism, okay; citizen journalism so far seems to be mostly reports of which Starbucks Lindsay Lohan was spotted in ten minutes ago.
The idea of the critic as singular, priestly authority was always, in my opinion, a bad idea, both antidemocratic and anti-intellectual. Criticism thrives on contention and debate, and the Internet provides oxygen for that. I admit that I don’t always like being a target, and that I’m put off by the tone of sneering, knowing nastiness that sometimes seems to be the blogosphere’s default setting. But overall I think the presence of an army of smart, opinionated, aggressive writers waiting to pounce on my smallest lapse of taste or style makes me a better critic.
I don’t think there’s an either-or when it comes to print and online writing. Each has its advantages and limitations; together they form a comprehensive picture. I adopt somewhat different styles on my blog and in The New Yorker; I enjoy the distinctions, and I believe it’s a mistake for print publications to try to sound “bloggy” or for blogs to ramble on at magazine length.
Dalton Ross, editor-at-large, Entertainment Weekly
I think it’s fantastic—democracy in action. The concept that only a chosen few should be guardians of popular opinion is both elitist and outdated. And the technology makes the online conversation about entertainment much more of a two-way street.
The democratic aspect can be wonderful, as there are a number of folks who are incredible writers and critics. But there are also hundreds of other folks who just throw up whatever half-baked opinion comes to mind—because, hey, they can. When suddenly anybody can just say, “The Phantom Menace is awesome!,” and that’s given the same weight as the opinion of someone who’s been evaluating movies professionally for 50 years, the sense of authority is gone. And as readers, we need that.
Stephanie Zacharek, film critic, Salon.com
The very nature of blogging—or vlogging, or what have you—is that it’s a “log,” a commentary that isn’t necessarily shaped. That can be valuable, to a point: Bloggers can be very smart, insightful and knowledgeable, but even so, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re applying the discipline it takes to build an argument, which is essential to good criticism.
Michael Feingold, chief theater critic, The Village Voice
Everyone was always a critic. The only change now is that James Agate’s famous quip, “Anyone can write drama criticism; it takes a very clever fellow to get it published,” no longer applies.
Next: How do you make your voice heard?