Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Article About Those Darn Bloggers

An interesting article and take on the "print v online" debate when it comes to reviewers or critics or whatever the heck you want to call yourself.

Is it curtains for critics? from The Observer; I saw it first at Justine Larbalestier's blog.

In terms of the print v online debate, it's almost sad that people still see a difference. Much online content fills different needs than print; but traditional print media has missed the boat, not realizing what their audience wants.

As I've pointed out before, there isn't a lot of print coverage of children's/YA books, so the blogosphere fills that vacuum.

When there is coverage, the print newspapers don't always know what they are talking about (a point also made by Justine).

After reading the Is it curtains for critics essay, I see another reason for the downfall of print media in this area. It's the attitude that, "I'm smarter than you, I know more than you, listen to me" -- when the basis of the "smarter" is only that they write for print, have been doing this for a long time, and get paid for what they do.

Nope, those factors don't mean that automatically, without thought, I defer to "print expertise." I read what you write and decide based on what you actually write, rather than who you are. (Again, a point also made by Justine -- you can see why I was so eager to read the actual article after reading her write up of it!)

Add to that, as is pointed out by a blogger in the article, the act of writing professionally for years can change one's own tastes to the point where the writer is actually out of step with their audience. And here's the thing -- I can see the professional critic saying "but that is good." But the audience is telling you -- "no, it's not." And that is why perhaps the print media may actually be right to dump their critics; the realization that the critics are out of touch with their audience.

Anyway, some choice quotage (sometimes from the author of the essay, others from interviews within the essay.)

"It appears that consumers no longer feel the need to obtain their opinions from on high: the authority of the critic, derived from their paid position on a newspaper, is diminished." The key clause of t his sentence is authority that is derived from being paid by the newspaper -- and this is where the traditional critics are being left behind, in that they still believe that is enough. No, it is not.

"If you really are good at it you figure out some way to get paid for it. At the risk of sounding elitist, everyone has an opinion, but not everyone has an informed opinion." Actually, I totally agree with this one! Where we would disagree, is that no, it's not so easy getting paid for this stuff. As I write this, and do some editing, I wish I had a real editor so that this would be tighter, and less "I, I, I". But I don't have that luxury. And, to repeat what is already stated, the definition of "informed" is not "being paid by the newspaper." The blogosphere has some stuff that is just crap; absolutely true.. After reading the umpteeth poorly written synopsis of a book with only the explanation of "I loved it"/"I hated it," I want an informed opinion by someone who knows how to write. But here's the thing -- there is also some great stuff in the blogosphere. And that badly written synopsis/loved it review? It can be found both online and in print.

One journalist muses, "I just don't want to hang around with company I don't value. Life's too short". Right back at you, baby! Except, um, YOURS may be the company I don't value.

More on "teh authority" the obedient audience should be silently listening to and agreeing with and following without question: "Spencer agrees. 'You're supplying a service, one with real authority behind it. There is always going to be a need for expert opinion.' Don't even mention the need for the democratisation of opinion to Brian Sewell. 'I do not believe in the democratisation of opinion. I believe in benign authority. And if we undermine the authority of critics then we shall descend into mayhem." The disagreement I have is both the implied definition of "expert" and of the need of a "benign authority" I should shut up and listen to. I find it amusing that the UK viewpoint is so wrapped up in "benign authority." I don't believe in this; I can respect the hell out of you, but not agree with you every time, and not put aside my own thoughts, beliefs, experience, and reactions to say "oh yes you are always right."

One person recognizes that print no longer equals better, but, alas, I cannot tell his tone: "And we have to accept that the printed word no longer has aristocratic supremacy".

An "expert" can be an amateur blogger; look into their background and they have read or viewed or attended the books, films, plays that the "experts" have. Important things I look at are the depth of knowledge of the person writing, be it blog or print; their knowledge of the subject area; and whether they write well. But, in all honesty, I have seen as many historical mistakes in print as I have online, so, no, the lack of deep knowledge of a subject area is not limited to one medium.

The eliminating of critics and reviews in print media is not a good thing; ideally, the competition of online content should be a wake-up call to traditional print media that they are not meeting the needs of their audience. That newspapers and magazines react by dumping those coverage areas is proof that they not only aren't meeting their audience needs; they don't fully understand their audience and what the audience wants and needs.

1 comment:

Maggie Stiefvater said...

That newspapers and magazines react by dumping those coverage areas is proof that they not only aren't meeting their audience needs; they don't fully understand their audience and what the audience wants and needs.

Absolutely. I still rely on reviews to direct my reading purchases -- but you better believe when I'm looking for a good book, the first thing I do is check my favorite authors' blogs to see what they've recommended recently. I just don't trust traditional reviews without any context any more -- how do I even know that reviewer likes what I like?