In one more crushing blow to the state of film criticism today, Entertainment Weekly laid off Owen Gleiberman after 24 years with the publication. Gleiberman had been with the publication since its inception in 1990. Entertainment Weekly also announced in their press release that in the future they will be utilizing a program with unpaid writers for future film reviews. While the move was met with indifference by some (BadAssDigest‘s Devin Faraci felt the need to publicly shrug the news off over and over), many critics took to Twitter to lend their support.
Following the exits of Gleiberman, Lisa Schwarzbaum and Ken Tucker, most are wondering just exactly what this all means for other film critics. As The Dissolve‘s Scott Tobias noted today after the news of Gleiberman’s layoff, “The evaporation of stable, salaried jobs in criticism (and entertainment writing in general) is an ongoing crisis.” Before Tobias’s comments are waved off as exaggeration, consider the state of entertainment writing. Casting news, trailers and lists are the most treasured pieces of writing by sites due to their ability to draw page hits.
Heavily-trafficked sites like SlashFilm and BadAssDigest making their living off of 24-hour coverage of junkets and Comic-Con, so perhaps film journalism is moving toward regurgitating an endless stream of “_____ is appearing in Iron Man 12” headlines as well. Announcements regarding the latest comic-book franchise and young adult lit. adaptations all clog headlines for most movie/television based blogs and maybe that will be how it goes from here on out. With more and more pundits saying that films are becoming critic-proof, one supposes writers will need to adapt to the next trend.
While there is nothing stopping Owen Gleiberman and other recently laid off critics from branching into blogging, one has to wonder if a contemplative, 900 word review is still useful in today’s scene. This business is constantly evolving and maybe—the most disheartening words for aspiring writers to hear—making a living off of criticism isn’t feasible in today’s society anymore. There are dozens of rich articles written about classic movies, retrospectives about performances from forgotten films and endlessly entertaining essays, but almost none compete with free labor and quick screening reactions written in 140 characters or less.
It is still too soon to judge whether more and more magazines/sites will go the unpaid writers route, but in the meantime it’s tempting to tell the last person writing “don’t forget to turn the lights off before you leave.”