Where Have All the Film Critics Gone?

Last week, in his “All about flicks” blog, The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Sean P. Means noted the dismissal of Los Angeles Times film critic Carina Chocano. In so doing, he  says that this “makes 40 movie critics who have lost their jobs—through layoffs, buyouts, reassignments, forced retirements, etc.—at print publications since January 2006. She’s also the 19th this year.” This is followed by Means’ listing of the departed, who include two other L.A. Times critics: Kevin Thomas and Kevin Crust, as well as Michael Wilmington (Chicago Tribune), Jack Mathews (New York Daily News), David Ansen, (Newsweek). (Incidentally, Chocano’s dismissal leaves The Los Angeles Times with only one full-time film critic!)

It is no secret that newspapers and other publications have been in something of a death spiral due to the impact of the Internet, as evidenced by the recent announcement that:

In 2009, the [Christian Science] Monitor will become the first nationally circulated newspaper to replace its daily print edition with its website; the 100 year-old news organization will also offer subscribers weekly print and daily e-mail editions.

Thus, the loss of film critics is being mirrored by their fellow journalists across the board, including book, theater and art critics. And the current economic downturn can only serve to accelerate this trend. A few national papers, such as The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, will probably survive better than most, but it’s obviously not going to be a pretty situation over the next few years.

While the web has provided a vibrant alternative source of news and opinion to more traditional print media, the experience is not the same. For instance, when I read the print version of The New York Times, I find myself reading a lot more than when I visit the paper’s website (which I do quite often), and enjoying it more. I am not exactly sure why this is so, but whatever the reason it does not help those journalists who have to scramble for jobs in a lousy economy.

Author: Harvey Deneroff

Harvey Deneroff is a Los Angeles-based independent animation and film scholar specializing in labor history. He formerly taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was editor of Animation Magazine, Animation World Magazine, and Graiffit (published by ASIFA-Hollywood). He is the founder and past president of the Society for Animation Studies.

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