Critics' Discomfort

By Kirtz, Bill | The Quill, December 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

Critics' Discomfort


Kirtz, Bill, The Quill


They'd rather praise than pan. They heed the press agents they trust. They hate their power to kill. And they're reporters first, patrons second.

They're some of the country's most influential critics, discussing the pains and pleasures of their craft at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

John Leonard, critic for CBS News Sunday Morning and New York magazine, estimates that fewer than 1,000 of the 65,000 new books published a year are worthwhile. So "I'm more interested in discovering good (authors) than in jumping on the heads of those who let me down"

He's aware of and uncomfortable with his ability to sell, or to stifle, a new voice. "With non-fiction, a good review is the only chance most writers have to enter the national conversation. Your honor is to accurately report it."

Leonard considers himself a reporter "writing for an intelligent friend."

"I try to be persuasive, to communicate indignation, enthusiasm, excitement." When Leonard finds a promising unknown, "I want to grab the reader by the lapels and say, `Read this now!"'

And if he's wrong, so what, as long as he's clear?

"An articulate critic you disagree with is useful if he articulates standards," Leonard said. "Often readers will disagree with me, and they can be right:'

Although he's one of the country's bestknown critics, Leonard believes he has no influence over television. "TV is a circus of choice," Leonard said. "I have no power to change peoples' minds. They make up their own."

He added that he helped keep the NBC drama Homicide on the air with repeated reviews until it found its audience.

Leonard has complained that intelligent television shows used to be able to survive with a devoted audience, but that today's television executives have no faith in their own judgment and often yank promising programs off the air after only three or four episodes if they don't draw high ratings.

Like many others in his field, Leonard deplores the publicity around new productions. "When does journalism slide into hype?" he asked. When $50 million is spent on advertising a new film and when prepackaged interviews with the stars go directly onto television, he said, "there's almost no fighting" the PR machine. "Editors say, `How come you're not covering this?' It's hard to resist it in the television and film world. You reject the hype but you learn to rely on PR people you can trust" to steer you to promising productions.

Leonard, former New York Times book review editor and chief cultural critic, is "thankful I can't put anybody out of work. I can't stop the music or close the show, and I wouldn't want that power:'

Margo Jefferson, the Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning reviewer, had that power and hated it. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Critics' Discomfort
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.