As someone who was a working film critic for nearly 20 years—and, I'm pretty sure, the only Baptist to win 2 Catholic Press awards for movie reviews—I probably owe Chicago Sun Time film critic Roger Ebert (and his late partner Tribune critic Gene Siskel) a nod of tribute for popularizing such writing.
Siskel and Ebert were, no doubt, reliably liberal, with a Baby Boomer love of 70s film as the height of artistic expression. Plotless character studies like The Last Picture Show earned their endless rapture. However they also had a populist edge that escaped their colleagues like the New Yorker's Pauline Kael. Ebert wrote of Dirty Harry, for instance, "The movies moral position is fascist. No doubt about it." Then, unlike other hoity toity critics, gave it a "Thumbs Up."
But like the rest of the liberal press since the Bush Administration, Ebert has become more openly partisan, and his reviews—still published under the aegis of the Chicago Sun Times and syndicated to places which have eliminated film critics like my hometown newspaper The Flint Journal– are often nothing but political lectures.
However, Modern Roger's biggest offenses come via his Twitter account. Of course, everyone in the lamestream media has to get their Palin shots in, and Roger is no exception. This weekend's was a howler:
EBERT TWITTER: Some distinguished person should patiently explain to Palin why the Constitution protects citizens who "don't deserve it."
… and some 3rd grader should patiently explain to Roger that the word "citizens" in an American Constitutional sense, does not apply to Nigerians.
Newspaper editors and publishers have been flailing about, trying to save their dying business model for years, grasping onto the next trending solution like a shipwreck survivor grabs a life preserver. Unfortunately, most of the time they are like men in holes grabbing shovels to try anddig themselves out.
For a while, the "solution" was "branding." Marketing consultants made big bucks telling publishers that their 100 year-old newspaper could fix its image in the community with a snappy new slogan, as long as everything the paper said and did to promote itself tied back into it.
To cut costs, the newspapers cut local content and used more wire service features. In other words, they got rid of what made them unique, and expected people to pay for articles they could find online for free—and a day earlier.
Then, someone came up with the bright idea that the way to fix a business with falling revenueswas to improve the FREE online product—pass the shovel, please!
Now, editors are just as convinced that if writers would just blog, tweet and email, they will attract younger readers even more quickly than their older customer base is dying off.
Want to know why the newspaper business is dying? It's condescending crap like this. J-schools have been churning out PC-trained young skulls full of mush with built-in liberal biases for decades. Unfortunately for them, the market their advertisers are willing to pay the most to reach are in the mostly REPUBLICAN suburbs.
Nearly every mid-to-large city newspaper has spent a generation alienating those cutomers, just at the time technology is giving them more—and more timely– options for getting their news.
One of Roger's favorite films is Citizen Kane, the Orson Welles classic about an egomaniacal newspaper publisher who builds an empire, but alienates those who love him.
Citizen Ebert exemplifies how the newspaper business has alienated its natural customer base. Now that he's such an online guy, I wonder if Roger has answered any emails from that Nigerian prince…?
No wonder readers are turning thumbs down to newspapers in larger numbers every day.