Dear Pitchfork Media

by |
01/16/2009 4:30 PM |

One of the more annoying tics I’ve started noticing, in recent years, is people who talk like movies/albums/books are reviewed by publications instead of people. As in, “Pitchfork liked it”, “Pitchfork hated it”, when in fact they mean to say, “This person, with a distinct sensibility and prose style, said this.” Of course there’s a lot of overlap in taste, interest and intention — a house voice, as there is anywhere — but like any top-tier arts-media outlet you employ writers of distinction, in all sense of the word.

This tic represents a disheartening and dishearteningly common disinterest, on the part of the general public, in critical conversation; but, it must be said, there’s at least one thing you do that encourages people to reduce criticism to a consumer guide, and to reduce the website to some kind of aggressive cultural monolith with an easily described (and derided) agenda, rather than the multiplicity of voices which it is. (And, perhaps, make your site less of a hype-cycle grist mill, to date an unfortunate side effect of your wide readership and adventurous writers.)

Here is my modest proposal:

How about you put the author’s byline in the header of a review, and put the numerical rating at the bottom?

This would, I think, put the focus back on a conversation between a writer and his/her (mostly his, in your case) readership, and encourage people to think of criticism as the conversation it is.

You could, of course, forgo the numerical rating entirely, but then again more people have heard of Roger Ebert than have heard of James Agee, Manny Farber, Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris put together, mostly because the whole thumb thing really plays into the above-mentioned misconception about the function of the critic. And you all have families, or at least fish, to feed.

3 Comment

  • yeah, I notice that in relation to Film Forum and L Magazine last week…

  • yeh, Benjamin Strong writing on Godard’s Made in USA, although to Film Forum’s credit, they did link it to the full review.

  • Apparently you’ve never read the Economist. There’s something nice about a publication taking responsibility and using their writers as its voice, rather than leaving the poor writers vulnerable.