Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The critical ranks keep thinning

Several people have e-mailed me David Carr's article in Tuesday's New York Times, which ran under the headline "Now on the Endangered Species List: Movie Critics in Print." The headline pretty much tells the story. Many papers are buying out or otherwise bidding farewell to their movie critics.

Wrote Carr: "Nathan Lee, one of The Village Voice’s two full-time critics, was laid off last week by Village Voice Media, a large chain of alternative weeklies that has been cutting down the number of critics it employs across the country.

"The week before, two longtime critics at Newsday — Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour — took buyouts, along with their editor. And at Newsweek, David Ansen is among 111 staff members taking buyouts, according to a report in Radar.

"They join critics at more than a dozen daily newspapers (including those in Denver, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale) and several alternative weeklies who have been laid off, reassigned or bought out in the past few years, deemed expendable at a time when revenues at print publications are declining, under pressure from Web alternatives and a growing recession in media spending."

Though not named, I'm the critic in Denver. Fortunately for me, I was not laid off, but accepted a buyout and was eager to pursue new challenges. Still, it's sad to read about those whose fates may have been more painful.

No need to recount the woes of newspapers here, but on a personal note: My father earned his living as a Linotype operator at a New Jersey daily. He retired right around the time that his trade was vanishing. Computers were beginning to make major inroads into newspapers, the first real revolution in printing since Gutenberg.

Oh well, I guess the current situation can be taken as a sign of generational progress: My dad's species became extinct; mine is only endangered.

After the fact, it occurs to me that I probably should explain that a Linotype machine came equipped with a 90-character keyboard. The operator set lines of type in hot metal. Each line of type (a slug) was used to form a story and individual stories were later assembled into pages. If you want to see one of these ungainly looking machines, click here.

No comments: