Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another Stupid Newspaper Trick: CL Fires Film Critic Lance Goldenberg

More news from the department of bad newspaper management: Creative Loafing in Tampa has fired longtime film critic Lance Goldenberg.

Like so many similarly misguided daily newspapers across the country (including the Tampa Tribune), CL has opted to replace locally generated film coverage with film coverage provided by some other people, from somewhere else, who aren't known to the local community. Gee, and I thought CL was cut from a different cloth.

Yes, sure, the paper is likely to cite sound "financial" reasons for this decision. But, really, THIS from a publication that has regularly (and rightfully) taken local daily newspapers to task for the same type of decisions? Hmmmm.

Are the short-term savings really going to trump what CL will lose, over the long haul, in terms of its credibility as a reliable, authoritative source for quality arts and entertainment reporting?

Isn't A/E reporting one of CL's strengths?

Is CL really THAT clueless about how important Lance's work is to local film fans, and about how much he has done to ensure that local film festivals thrived?

Whose head is next on CL's chopping block?

Yes, it's yet another sign of incredible short-sightedness by yet another newspaper that's apparently way out of touch with its readers' needs, and incapable of appreciating the value of its most talented staffers, AND the importance of "institutional memory." You can't put a price tag on someone with the depth and breadth of contacts that Lance has in the Tampa Bay area film community (and beyond).

Lance has always been one of the chief reasons I've picked up Creative Loafing/Weekly Planet.

I've always appreciated his insight as a film critic, his obvious love for film and understanding of film history, his passion for world cinema and a writing style that has always been inviting -- intelligent, entertaining -- to readers.

Yes, he wrote long, essay-style reviews (an approach often disdained by the McNews crowd). He took full advantage of the opportunity to write at length about movies that he deemed important, AND about local film events that deserved attention.

I've also appreciated how Lance has refused to toe the line when it comes to sensitive/controversial political, social and religious issues. To his credit, and to his readers' benefit, he's gone his own way, often times diverging from the paper's pretty clear editorial tilt to the left. He was something of a maverick. That was refreshing.

If the Tampa area indeed has possessed a "film culture" over the course of the 20 years that I've lived in Tampa, Lance is one of the reasons that that culture has thrived.

Perhaps CL will respond to readers' distaste with this situation by revisiting the paper's decision?

Lance, in his note about all of this, wrote that he has been "let go" and that CL in Tampa and Sarasota henceforth will mostly recycle film reviews from the chain's staff writers in Atlanta.


E said...

Lance was the ONLY reason I picked up Creative Loafing/Weekly Planet...

Philip Booth said...

Well, I've long followed and enjoyed the work of Eric Snider (music/features), Wayne Garcia (politics) and Wade Tatangelo (music), even back when they wrote for daily newspapers.

So Lance's writing is just one of several reasons I've continued to read Creative Loafing.

Still, I'll agree in part - Lance's film coverage was the part of CL that I always turned to first. And his page was the one that I rushed to catch up with online if/when I missed the print edition.

Warner and Eason can explain away all they want, but it won't change this:

Canning Lance was a sock in the stomach to local film fans, whose support by rights - and by economic might - ought to have been important to the CL overlords.

In a time of rapidly shrinking readership, can CL really afford to alienate this group of loyal readers?

Sadly, newspapers won't realize the actual long-term cost of these types of decisions until it's too late.

KombatRock! said...

Totally sucks. Although I didnt always agree with his reviews, Lance is a great insightful writer, one of the top 2 or 3 on staff. Major bummer for Tampa.

SteamyKitchen said...

Bummer - I loved his writing!

Well, I'm sure Lance will be moving on to bigger and better things.

ShadowMerchant said...

I have been reading Lance's column for what seems like a million years - but I am told it has only been 19 - and have always enjoyed it. I especially like the way that he is able to open my eyes to details that I would not have been able to see. I look to him to help guide me to movies I would not have otherwise seen and also avoid some stinkers. Lance leaving the paper will create a pretty big hole!

philip booth said...

Re: Bigger and better things.
Yep, Lance is a talented writer and resourceful guy.

I'm sure that he'll find a job writing about film for another publication, or channeling his writing talents in another direction.

David said...

I am in shock. I used to "work" with Lance back in the Weekly Planet days. After Scott Harrell left, I still occasionally visited CL online to read Lance's stuff. He's one of the most erudite, articulate and insightful critics I've ever had the pleasure of reading. You always felt informed and a little smarter after reading his prose.

I hope Lance moves on to bigger and better things. That, or maybe get Live Skull back together and go on tour.

Philip Booth said...

re: David's comment:

Live Skull! - now there's a blast from Lance's past. I would bet money that a reunion isn't on the radar of anyone in that band.

But who knows? Stranger things have happened. Maybe the timing is right.

Steve said...

I left Tampa about ten years ago, but I have relied on Lance to decide which movies I see in the theater and which ones I wait for the DVD.

He is simply the best film critic I have ever known.