The Toronto Star, my professional home now of close to four decades, has decided in its infinite wisdom that it no longer needs a TV column, and thus no longer requires a TV critic. TV news is now being covered by the excellent reporter Tony Wong, the rest with warmed-over wire copy, freelancers and indentured summer interns.
I have been inexplicably re-assigned to the city desk, specifics as yet unknown (I've taken all my owed vacation, and won't be back at work till November). No doubt my decades of accumulated knowledge, contacts and perspective on the entertainment beat will serve me well in this new capacity.
Fortunately, this involuntary upheaval does not seem to have diminished my currency as a pop pundit on TV and radio, or this tentative entre onto the net. I still teach a post-grad college class on TV criticism and history.
So I’m basically still a TV critic, everywhere but in the Star.
It’s not like I didn’t see this coming. I’ve hung in longer than most. Over the last several years at the TCA tour, we’ve seen the old-school print veterans disappear, one by one, to be replaced by shiny young bloggers and tweeters.
Much as I may deplore my masters’ methods, I cannot deny their motivation. In the face of dwindling ads and eyeballs, newspapers have already been forced to cut costs to the bone. And now they’ve started to whittle away at the bone.
Um. As anybody who's been reading shiny bloggers and tweeters for more than ten seconds can tell you, newspapers have not been "forced" to do anything. Many, many cuts are to profitable organizations, and they're to INCREASE profits, not stop losses. Newspaper companies regularly post profits that make Wal-Mart look like a losing proposition, but hey, you go right on buying into your bosses' excuses and blame the kids in their parents' basements.
This generational warfare is EXACTLY what the bosses are hoping for, because it takes the focus off where the money's really going, who's really getting it, and why. It makes it out like they were just responding to market forces, rather than making the cold and awful decision to just not employ you anymore.
These days, everybody's a critic. The open-access internet has diluted and democratized comment and criticism to the point where any anonymous malcontent with an opinion and a URL has as much credibility as an actual, working, experienced professional.
People have the credibility you give them, no more, no less. Twas ever thus, and the way I know that is that News of the World has the word "news" in it just like the NY Daily News does. If you feel burdened by having to respect someone you don't think is worthy of your respect, it's very simple: Go find someone else at the weenie roast to talk to.
(Am I the only one who's found that because of the Internet, criticism has to be BETTER? You can't get away with sucking when so many more people are coming for you.)
Every time I read one of these screeds against the Internet Generation that is Ruining Everything (screeds invariably published ON THE INTERNET), I feel profoundly sorry for the writer, because feeling like you're old and irrelevant sucks, and nobody should be made to feel that way.
And I wonder who he or she replaced, back when he or she was 22 and offered a job starting out, and took it because he or she had always wanted to work at a newspaper, or had student loans to pay off, or just took the outrageous view that if a job is offered to you you say YES. I wonder if, back then, the person replaced felt the same way: pushed out, cast aside. And I wonder whose fault THAT was.
Certainly not the eager young whippersnapper's, I'm sure.