LA Times' Patrick Goldstein laments:
There was a time when critics were our arbiters of culture, the ultimate interpreters of intellectual discourse. When I was growing up, eager to write about the arts, it was just as important to read Pauline Kael, Frank Rich and Lester Bangs as it was to see a Robert Altman film, a David Mamet play or listen to the latest Elvis Costello album. Critics gave art its context, explained its meaning and guided us to new discoveries.Talk amongst yourselves.
As a flood of stories in recent weeks has shown, those days are going, going, gone. Critics today are viewed as cultural dinosaurs on the verge of extinction. Most of the attention lately has focused on the demise of film critics. The Salt Lake Tribune's Sean P. Means actually posted a list Wednesday of film critics, now totaling 28, who have lost or decided to leave their jobs in the last two years, including such notables as Newsweek's David Ansen, the New York Daily News' Jack Mathews and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Wilmington.
Critics are being downsized all over the place, whether it's in classical music, dance, theater or other areas in 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 anymore -- it seems clear that we're in an age with a very different approach to the role of criticism.
Obviously the Internet has played a big role in this shift. It has promoted a democratization of opinion in which solo bloggers -- most famously Matt Drudge -- can outstrip mammoth news organizations. Whenever I spend time with young students, I see an even more intriguing concept at work. Although they are heavily influenced by peer group reaction to films or music, they do listen to critics, but largely as a group, not as individual brands. The age of the singular critical voice is ending -- people prefer the wisdom of a community.
Personally, I think it's the medium not the individual critic that's endangered. The internet is not the enemy. Put the critics on the internet!