Media: Movie Columnist Patrick Goldstein Leaves the LAT After 12 Years

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by Anne Thompson
August 22, 2012 5:50 PM
6 Comments
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Patrick Goldstein
Patrick Goldstein is leaving the LA Times after reportedly taking a buyout. After twelve years, his last column ran today. I'm sorry to see him go. But I have a confession to make. I had stopped reading Goldstein. I wasn't avoiding him. There was a time when I read the weekly The Big Picture column religiously, looked forward to it: good, bad or ugly. Goldstein had cronies in the industry who he'd write about, year in, year out, and protect, and serve. This happens to all of us, after a while, to one degree or another. THR's Kim Masters said it best when she left L.A. for a period for a gig at The Washington Post: "I made too many friends and too many enemies."

So what happened? Entertainment news and the way we consume it changed. My print subscription to the LATimes runs Thursday to Sunday--the minimum I need to get online access 24/7. So the rest of the time I read the LAT online and when a Goldstein column hit Twitter or Facebook or my email, I read it. Otherwise it didn't register. People don't tend to go looking for things anymore. They grab what's coming in. I didn't go searching for his blog. I had no idea Goldstein had a Twitter account. He finally started @patrickbigpix last April, and his tweets were good--but he tweeted twice a day, if that: 189 tweets in total. He had 320 followers.

The thing is, he was a print guy who didn't adapt to the new world where you have to constantly reach out and engage your readers, build your fanbase, keep the news coming. I'm not saying that's what he should have done. It's probably how he could have survived though, because working on salary at a newspaper today means earning your bacon, making your bosses feel they're getting their money's worth, even when they're selling Oscar ads against you. The LAT's Geoff Boucher is the new model entertainment writer, constantly creating and repurposing and sending out new material online, via his Hero Complex blog.

Long thoughtful columns are something I like to write too, and I miss doing them more often. Adapt or die.

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6 Comments

  • Anne Thompson | August 25, 2012 5:52 PMReply

    OK. Of course I bewail the lack of length and breadth and scope that comes with the coarsening and quickening of the new media landscape. I hate that Premiere is gone, that Kim Masters no longer writes long features for Esquire or Vanity Fair. But there is evidence that readers do seek the authority and deep original reporting that Goldstein did so well. My argument is that in order for folks like Goldstein to survive and continue to do what they do--I did not want him to stop!--they need to learn social media tools and skills. He actively resisted changing his weekly columnist rhythm. My point is not that 320 followers is bad--it's that he didn't work the medium well enough to move the needle in his direction. The LAT looks at metrics, at numbers in and numbers out. You're right. The clout Goldstein had could not be measured. The LAT afforded him-- until they couldn't.

  • Lisa Nesselson | August 25, 2012 2:05 PMReply

    Exceedingly well put, Mr. Gritten.

  • David Gritten | August 24, 2012 6:02 AMReply

    You're certainly right about one thing, Anne, it's a whole new media world out there and you do have to adapt or die. But I think you've been a trifle harsh about Patrick Goldstein. I only recall meeting him once or twice, and then briefly -- I'm in London, he's in LA -- and his writing suggests he's a tough-minded guy who doesn't need any defending from me. But I wouldn't be surprised if he was feeling wearied by all the hyper-frenetic excitability that now permeates media coverage of the industry.

    Part of the problem is that we are all so easily lured into accepting the importance of statistics that exist in a void. You say Goldstein had 320 Twitter followers, and there's an implied 'only' before that figure of 320. But supposing some of those 320 were among the most influential players in the industry -- which wouldn't surprise me? Better that than 10,000 part-time movie bloggers who rarely leave their bedrooms and still live with Mom and Dad. (Similarly, we're implicitly invited to judge the significance of thoughts and opinions expressed on Facebook by the number of 'likes.' But as there's no 'don't like' to click on -- if only! -- there's no context to those 'likes.')

    Same goes for the criticism that Goldstein 'only' did two tweets a day. Wow. Imagine. Is it possible he felt there were only two things worth tweeting about on an average day? Any idiot can clog up the Twittersphere with minute-by-minute accounts of their daily routine, or letting it be known they're in a theater eagerly awaiting, oh, I don't know, The Watch to begin. Maybe Goldstein is more discerning than to go down the 'never a thought unexpressed' route.

    It's a whole new media world in another way -- it's increasingly peopled by content suppliers who don't get paid for their efforts. (Disclaimer time here, I guess -- I do receive a salary from writing about film, plus payments from other occasional outlets, including TOH.) But many unpaid writers I know figure the best way to make an eventual living at writing about films is to enthuse loudly and indiscriminately about them. They come to believe that the more favorable comments they make about movies far and wide, on Twitter, Facebook and beyond, the better it helps them 'market' themselves to the industry and to potential employers. They embrace the fallacy that their careers will be boosted by providing gushing poster quotes about as many movies as possible. All these strategies favor only the industry, not the writer.

    I've always felt that independent minded film writers are distrusted, and even slightly feared by the industry. This doesn't negate the fact that there are many people in the film business with whom one can have a pleasant, cordial relationship. But while the industry can predict a lot of things about a movie's commercial prospects -- by means that include realistic budgets, casting shrewdly, marketing thoughtfully and being strategic with release dates, it's far harder to prevent bad word from leaking out once you show a lousy movie to journalists whose job is to report and analyse what they see without prejudice or hope of advancement. People like that are wild cards that can throw an otherwise predictable business model into disarray.

    Over years, Goldstein has proved himself beyond doubt to be one of those people. He's always struck me as someone who takes time to think through an argument before committing himself to writing about it. I hope his voice will still be heard in other contexts. But then it's hard for anyone to get properly heard in a deafening media environment where everyone feels the needs to be commenting about everything all the time -- and as swiftly as possible, with no time to think. You say entertainment news has changed. Quite so -- to the point that most of it is no longer recognisable as news at all.

  • Sarah | August 24, 2012 2:48 AMReply

    Sad news for LAT fans. Now we're stuck with the odious Mark Olsen.

  • rgm | August 23, 2012 3:44 PMReply

    I would argue that there is very real need for genuine critics today. And in the future, there will be an even greater need. The sheer output of film, writing, art, tv -- you call it -- has become alarming. How can an overwhelmed and constantly assaulted public judge which, or what to experience, if everything is coming at us with the continued, hard-sell speed of digital PR. So why, now, must our best critics become perpetual self-aggrandizing digitizers, or day-long tweeters: frantic, exhausted, madly competitive fast-reactors, with little time to write, let alone think. I grant you today's almost universally digital reality. But should that allow the sheer dollar volume of self-serving ads or hype choose our best entertainment? Even the very digital Tomato-meter relies on critical consensus.

  • joseph wigglebottom | August 23, 2012 11:53 AMReply

    Yes, if only he'd tweeted more about karaoke night with the blog kids.

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