On 2006, Sean P. Means, movie critic for The Salt Lake Tribune, began compiling on his blog a list of colleagues that have lost their jobs in print outlets all over the country. By the time of his last entry, on May 2009, just a month before the official end of the recession, he had on record 55 American film critics that ceased holding their positions in between that three year period for various reasons.
Since then, more film critics have been losing their jobs. The most notable probably is Todd McCarthy, who was fired last year from Variety after 31 years working for it as chief movie critic. The magazine, which has the honor of publishing the first movie review in history in 1907, decided to cut costs and move on to freelance reviews instead. The trend continues to this day: Elvis Mitchell was laid off from Movieline last month. He was fired too from the New York Times not so long ago.
All these firings are part of a bigger debate: Are traditional movie critics relevant anymore? And also, will the job of the film critic still exist in the future? The most recurring argument is that, with the blooming of Internet and social networks, there’s been a democratization in film criticism. Nowadays basically anyone can be a critic and also there are much more alternatives to print criticism, therefore it’s losing its prominence and relevance.
To add fuel to the debate, I talked about the present and future of film criticism with three movie critics who are still writing reviews full time for three different newspapers: Amy Biancolli (Houston Chronicle, member of the Houston Film Critic Society), James Verniere (Boston Herald, member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics) and Lisa Kennedy (Denver Post). I decided to ask all of them the same question upfront: How do you see the job of the movie critic in the next five years?
With new technologies emerging and competition in the field increasing, most traditional movie critics that have been around for more than a decade had to evolve and adapt to change. Their job is no longer the same as it was ten years ago. Verniere, Kennedy and Biancolli can testify for that.