Review and Criticism: Changed But Still Alive

It’s no secret: entertainment journalism and review writing has been hit with an especially large amount of change in recent years due to the online shift.

Several weeks ago, OU professor Mike Sweeney came into SPJ’s weekly meeting to discuss the future of review and criticism writing and where it’s going. Sweeney not only discussed his personal opinion of the future of print criticism, but also included tips by his former student and friend Andy Morgan, who is an online movie critic.

Some of the news is bleak. Due to an increased prevalence of online movie, music, book, and food reviews, the market for critics has shrunk. Many times it depends on the genre of the review. Many local and professional theater groups still expect printed and distributed reviews of their shows. Many metropolitan newspapers still employ food critics. Yet because the medium for music has changed, everyone’s a critic these days. Movies seem to be a little bit of both, but as Sweeney maintained, the reviewer shouldn’t quit his or her day job.

In essence, the consumer base is still there. Audiences still want to know which movies they should spend their money and time to go see. Readers still enjoy reading an intellectually-driven review of a bestselling book. But online aggregates, like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have changed the playing field for entertainment journalists.

Yet there are still opportunities at mainstream and independent publications to make a name in review and criticism writing. The New York Times review page is as respected and as frequently published as ever. Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times still reigns. The changed forum for journalism and for criticism in particular is a challenge for entertainment writers to continue to strive to be the top in their field. The field has become more selective in recent years, but it hasn’t downsized completely.

In the end, as with everything, the economic model for the field will continue to change. Yet if there are journalists and entertainment junkies who are willing to give an honest and thoughtful account of the available entertainment forms, review and criticism will always be around.

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