How criticism has shrunk in eight years

Quite by chance, I came across two articles I wrote in 2010 on criticism in crisis. I had just given up the last of my editorial responsibilities for hiring and firing critics and I was free to speak my mind.

Pressures were mounting on newspapers to cut review space and costs.

The first piece warns of declining standards among critics.

The second describes the arts critic as  an endangered species, almost a write-off. 

However, compared to present circumstances, 2010 seems a distant paradise.

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  • As a music critic/journalist in the Monterey Bay area of California for the last 40 years, I have witnessed the rise–and fall–of new colleagues in the local print media who are increasingly unqualified and unable to register an informed, intelligent opinion. Even some of the latest electronic media have done little better than to prop up contributors whose siren call is only their byline in print.

  • Very much enjoyed your New Statesman article Norman. One question, who won your young music critic competition and where are they now? I mean two questions…

  • Reading decades old copies of Gramophone, American Record Guide and other publications makes it clear that the literary standards of critics has devolved, to say nothing about a severe decrease in their knowledge of music. I have a file of liner notes from the early days. Those from Scherchen’s first Mahler 7 are superb and show real musicianship. There aren’t many writers like that anymore.

  • I always thought Bernard Holland of the New York Times was a good music critic – well-informed and impartial. I think he published a book – a collection of reviews – not too long ago.

  • Holland was terrific. He may have been the last to write in that way for print media and with such a thorough background.

  • I know a Gramophone critic of the older generation, now dead, who, when asked why he had given a favourable 1st review and then rubbished the recording a few months later, replied that “one always tries hard to be positive about a new issue.” In order to please the record company, no doubt.

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