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Why Syndicating Critics Is a Bad Idea

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik June 2, 2006 at 7:01AM

Why Syndicating Critics Is a Bad Idea
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In an outright lie to the New York Times, exec editor of Village Voice/New Times Michael Lacey denied the notion that the Voice uses a "centralized staff of arts reviewers who would work for the various Voice Media papers." The claim is patently false, as we've seen in the Voice's film pages, and as The Onion's chief film critic Scott Tobias recently noted in a blog comment. Tobias distills the issues relevant to movies fans succinctly in three points (listed below). Maybe Luke Y. Thompson can finally get it into his narcissistic skull why this issue is larger than just him.

Tobias writes:

"I think the die has been cast as far as film criticism for the VV/New Times groups goes, hasn't it? From what I understand, reviews are drawn largely from a "syndication pool" and run in every paper, with little-to-no local perspective. This obviously is a huge blow, and not just because of LYT and the New Times gang. A few other problems come to mind:

1. Having the same review run in all cities doesn't do much of a service to movies and moviegoers, since it doesn't account for the full spectrum of opinions that greet a given film.

2. Critics in smaller cities like The Nashville Scene's Jim Ridley or City Page's Rob Nelson have worked hard to nurture a film culture in their local markets, championing films and venues and festivals that are unique to their city. Readers who pick up their alt-weekly expecting to hear their distinctive voices week after week will not have their guidance.

3. The existence of a "syndication pool" axes freelancers in every city, which means that many young writers trying to cut their teeth in the business will not get an opportunity to do so.

In any case, I see this whole thing going the way of Gannett: The streamlining and slashing of payroll will reap huge profits at first. Then these emasciated McPapers will lose their individual distinction and readership, and those profits will plateau. Then they'll start losing money again.

Does this seem too cynical to you? Maybe I'm just overcompensating because so many of my friends and respected colleagues are involved. I worry for them, to say nothing of the state of published criticism."

This article is related to: Corporate Evils