Stephanie Zacharek will be laid off as chief critic at Movieline, and the position apparently eliminated, on July 13. The news, reported earlier by Matt Singer at IndieWire, has set off fresh concern about the future viability of film criticism as an actual career, or even as a job. At Fishbowl LA today, Richard Horgan and David Poland ponder the situation. Sample:
Poland says people typically skip over a critical big picture element when discussing the dumping of marquee critics. Namely, that daily newspapers never took them that seriously in the first place.
“I think the most overlooked element in all these conversations is how abusive print was to criticism,” Poland says. “That the attitude about film criticism from traditional media – for decades – was that they could move someone from the city or obits desk, anywhere, and make them a film critic.”
With regards to Zacharek, Poland argues that it’s a simple matter of dollars and sense. “Like everybody else, Stephanie probably had some shrinkage in her pay [from Salon to Movieline], followed by the fact that there just wasn’t any financial uptick to it,” he suggests. “I think sadly, that’s the reality.”
“Is criticism a revenue producer for a website? As far as I can tell, the answer is pretty much no. Even on Roger Ebert’s website, you don’t see movie ads. It’s not because they’re unwilling to take them. It’s that the studios don’t necessarily want to advertise over our criticism, because they can’t control it.”