Becoming a media journalist or culture critic is very, very difficult. It’s an incredibly competitive field that any number of degrees and qualification often doesn’t prepare you for, and it’s only getting harder. The graduate job market is saturated, with statistics showing that one in ten people with an undergraduate degree is unemployed, so apply those statistics to an already competitive industry and the reality strikes fear into the hearts of many a student (including myself.)
However, far and away the biggest threat to the budding critic is blogging and social media. Now clearly, for a budding writer, a blog presents an unmatched chance to showcase their writing and build up a portfolio, and with the right connections, tags, shares etc, can often attract the attention of relevant people and lead to some incredibly helpful connections. It is inarguable that ‘the best way to find a job is through networking‘; however, by the same token, the question remains that if seemingly everyone under the sun is blogging, tweeting, statusing, a range of reviews, discussions, analyses, how is it possible to stand out? More crucially, where is the line drawn between ‘respectable’ or ‘notable’ reviewers and someone sitting in bed at 3am writing a weakly crafted response to the latest episode of American Horror Story or their opinion on the BAFTA nominations?
If, like me, you follow a mix of personal and professional links on Twitter, when skimming it is often difficult to decipher which opinion comes from which outlet; is this tweet essaying American Hustle as a shoo-in at the Oscars from Total Film or that guy you met at that party once? The evidence of audience power is all around: popular reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes places audience reviews next to and the same size as critical reviews, thereby giving it equal prominence, and IMDb’s rating system is based purely on user reviews. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, giving audiences the influence they arguably deserve as the people footing the bill, but the question remains: when everyone is talking, how do you decide who’s worth listening to?
Obviously, the barrier still remains between ‘trusted’ publications like Total Film and Empire, but the gap is closing fast. The definition of a journalist has also been updated and adapted to include a relationship with the public that wasn’t previously there, and beyond that it is now more than possible for Joe Everyman to respond to the critics’ opinions directly, whether to agree or disagree. The power is shifting to include the general population as a decision-making force to be reckoned with, but that in itself poses a problem: if everyone’s suddenly a critic, no one is.