Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Film Critics an Endangered Species

Finally, the New York Times is getting around to taking stock of the increasingly desperate situation for full-time film critics around the country and its impact on a)the art of film criticism and b)the survival of the type of films that benefit greatly from the support of critics.

The latest blow: Nathan Lee has been dropped by the Village Voice, meaning that the nation's leading arts weekly now has just one full-time film critic. Adding to the idiocy of that decision is the fact that the Voice is based in New York, one of the last places where you can actually see several movies a day on the big screen without running out of good films to catch.

Today's NY Times story mentions - by city, but not by name or print outlet - two recent lame decisions by large daily Florida newspapers. In the last year, the Tampa Tribune and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel both decided that their readers no longer were worthy of receiving the benefit of full-time film critics. Trib film critic Bob Ross's position was eliminated, as was the job held by South Florida Sun-Sentinel film critic Phoebe Flowers. Phoebe at the time was president of the Florida Film Critics Circle, and Bob was a member.

Sorry, short-sighted publishers, but if you're really serious about getting all hyper-local with your coverage, then chopping off the community's living connections to your staff (in the form of locally based writers with loyal readerships) makes about as much sense as eliminating your feature sections. I can't tell you how little I care about the opinions of someone who showed up at a screening. Ditto for the plague of "community columnists." I go to newspapers to read the work of experienced journalists.

Bit by bit, newspapers are destroying the very reasons that people once were drawn to newspapers. I'd bet money that, for some readers, Ross, Lee and Nathan were among the very reasons that some readers picked up those writers' newspapers. How's that for innovative thinking?

By the way, Bob continues to cover movies at BobRossMovies.com

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