I read a thing on the Guardian the other day complaining about the lack of rigour from film journalists following an apparently extensive discussion in the music review industry about the genre degenerating into lifestyle journalism.
The immediate response is that such things are precisely lifestyle-oriented – if you want to write academically about film or music then be someone’s guest, but most ordinary folks aren’t going to buy it. My industry up the end of last year was car journalism, something I approached with similarly intentional rigour. I took the business seriously, researching and being on top of the latest developments. I fostered a careful awareness of the context and history of what I was driving and writing about – not to show it off in print, but to provide a solid foundation for it.
That’s not to say I don’t have criticisms of the criticism – the internet has decayed the profession, opened it up to enthusiastic amateurs who have an almost-but-not-quite veneer of professionalism that PRs love. They’re (mostly) nice guys, but they’re (mostly) just excited to be there, and often don’t know the rules of the game. Access is their oxygen, whereas the professional outlets have a different and more sturdy constitution.
The lifestyle element of my work made it entertaining and readable, but there’s a higher purpose to good criticism that makes things better for everyone. The pressure from journalists and writers who know their audience and know what they are talking about is what makes manufacturers up their game. I don’t pretend for a second that Top Gear is the only way to a car maker’s heart, but it’s a strong part. The glare of the spotlight is harsher than the passive attentions of the rose-tinted sunglasses. The internet might have opened up a brave new world of direct access to the consumer – in whatever arena – but it’ll ultimately be bad for everyone.
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