Jami Bernard: Case Study for the Decline of Arts Criticism?

Dave Kehr notes (and there is also this followup post) that Jami Bernard, one of the most underrated film critics working today, has not had her contract renewed at the New York Daily News. Kehr speculates that this represents the Daily News getting “rid of one of those pesky, individual voices that keep gumming up the paper’s stated mission to be as bland and toothless as possible.” Kehr also confesses that he experienced considerable editorial interference from top brass and that this move represents an ongoing trend by newspapers to scoop up young interns who will willfully salivate over Hollywood dreck.

Having had a brief stint as a film critic some years ago, I was fortunate not to experience such treatment first-hand. (We online worker bees were permitted considerable lattitude because, even in the eyes of the money men, we were somehow considered “alternative.”) But I did have conversations with some of my print colleagues who reported variations on these battles. I can’t help but dwell on how this reflects a larger trend that we’ll be seeing from the dailies over the next five years as subscriptions plummet and advertising drops. For the arts criticism that remains, will it all come down to hiring starving students straight out of college to patch together a few reviews for peanuts? If it comes down to a climate of inexperienced writers considered as the cultural arbiters, then what hope does more legitimate criticism have in the future? Will the James Woodses, the Jonathan Rosenbaums and the Cynthia Ozicks of our world have to lower their rates to ensure that criticism, at least as reflected in newspapers, is still relevant?

(via 2 Blowhards)


  1. I don’t even bother looking at individual movie reviews. I just look at “Rotten Tomatoes” and check out the percentage of critics that like the film. Much more efficient.

  2. Yeah, that’s how I like my criticism: served up efficiently with a nice percentage mark at the top so I don’t get all confused by the words. 😉

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