Friday, October 31, 2008

Critical Mass Exodus?

Critical Mass Exodus?

Are critics a dying breed?

Michael Riedel in this morning's New York Post notes how theatre critics may be heading the way of the dinosaur, at least when it comes to mainstream news media:
That's because they're newspaper drama critics, those once all-powerful arbiters who, with a vicious turn of phrase, could close a show, humiliate an actor, bankrupt an investor.

Now they're in danger of being shut down themselves, done in by declining circulation, shrinking arts coverage and that dreaded rival who's usurped their power, The Blogger.
Riedel cites The Star-Ledger's Michael Sommers and Peter Filichia, along with The New York Sun's Eric Grode, among the early casualties. But given the state of print media, with severely declining subscription bases, actions by news organizations like Newark's Star-Ledger to dramatically pare back their editorial staffs is a reality across the country.

Of course, with the rise of the Internet and the ability for consumers to surf the net for free information, it's no wonder that newspapers are feeling the pain, even if they have spent millions building online, and ostensibly free, sites.

The rise of the Internet has also meant that bloggers like yours truly are adding new voices to the rich tapestry of discussion on issues ranging from politics to gossip. And many of us are doing so without any compensation -- we're doing it purely for the passion we have for the topic.

There are many significant voices actively discussing live theatre, whether from the producers' perspective or those directly from the audience. And is that all bad?

Riedel rightfully ponders:

But is it such a bad thing for the theater if a tiny group of older, mostly male critics no longer have make-or-break power?

Many bloggers on All That Chat write as well as members of the New York Drama Critics Circle. And who's to say their opinions are any less valid?
The answer, fortunately for the audiences who can google countless theatrical reviews ranging from the illuminating to the intellectually-challenged, appears to be "no." The trick for audiences is to find the voices we trust and continually return to them.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 31 October, 2008, Anonymous RLewis said...

I guess Roma Torre is feeling pretty good about her job security right now. And she's no pushover. Can't we have more shows like On Stage? God, I love NY1.

At 03 November, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Well, I agree that there are a lot of sources of information for Broadway shows and in major cities and even some smaller ones. Taken as a whole, they provide a pretty vibrant, varied coverage of theatre in America.

But I keep thinking about people who live far away from New York, who might hear about the big touring production of Wicked or The Lion King but not about some good local theatre company if not for the mainstream media coverage.

That's where I think the loss would be felt as newspapers cut back. I don't know how many bloggers cover the theatre scene in small or midsized cities, where there might be quite a bit going on. I haven't found a blogger who covers the Greater Boston theatre scene with as much depth and breadth as The Boston Globe, for example.

If you're plugged in to the local arts community, you'd probably know about the women's playwrighting festival, for example, but if not, you'd probably only find out about it if a newspaper or tv station did a story.


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