Eli Broad and the Public Good « PREV | NEXT »: Mother's Day

May 9, 2010

Good Writing in the Service of Opinion

Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington on being a print critic in the digital age:

while print still matters, technology has democratised debate. Since I've always argued that a review is not a Mosaic tablet but a way of starting a discussion, I welcome that. But I'd like to nail one myth that is rapidly gaining ground: that, in the pre-internet era, newspaper readers were simply passive consumers. I seem to have spent much of the last 40 years responding to letters which challenged my views, nailed my inaccuracies or even, on one occasion, suggested I be horsewhipped. And, when I once rashly suggested that Shaw was second only to Shakespeare as an English language dramatist, I unleashed a debate in the correspondence columns that went on for weeks. What's changed is that any opinion is now open to instant rebuttal. But don't kid yourself that, even in the days of snail-mail, criticism was a cushy number in which our knuckles went unrapped.

The Stage survey also raises the question of why people still savour the print-merchants. I'd argue it's not just for what we say: it's for how we say it. Opinions are two a penny. What's damnably difficult is to write well; and, for me, there is still a personal challenge every night in trying to set down my views in 45 minutes with any degree of lucidity. And, when I dip into the critics of the past, it is less fortheir views on the event than for their style. Hazlitt's reportorial vividness, Shaw's polemical vigour, Tynan's voluptuous ease: these are the things that matter even when they are writing about long-dead plays. And today, even though I'm not a Daily Mail reader, I always turn to Quentin Letts in Theatre Record because he knows how to write.
May 9, 2010 6:12 AM | | Comments (0)

Leave a comment


Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


    ARTicles ARTicles is a project of 
    the National Arts Journalism Program, an association of some 500 journalists in the United States. Our group blog is a place for arts and cultural journalists to share ideas and information, to celebrate what we do, and to make the case for its continuing value. ARTicles is edited by Laura Collins-Hughes. To contact her, click here.

    ARTicles Bloggers Meet our bloggers: Sasha Anawalt, MJ Andersen, Alicia Anstead, Laura Bleiberg, Larry Blumenfeld, Jeanne Carstensen, Robert Christgau, Laura Collins-Hughes, Thomas Conner, Lily Tung Crystal, Richard Goldstein, Patti Hartigan, Glenn Kenny, Wendy Lesser, Ruth Lopez, Nancy Malitz, Douglas McLennan, Tom Moon, Abe Peck, Peter Plagens, John Rockwell, Werner Trieschmann, Lesley Valdes and Douglas Wolk. more

    NAJP NAJP is America's largest organization dedicated to the advancement of arts and cultural journalism. The NAJP has produced research, publications and discussions and works to bring together journalists, artists, news executives, cultural organization administrators, funders and others concerned with arts and culture in America today. more

    Join NAJP Join America's largest organization of arts journalists. Here's how more

see all archives

Contact: articles@najp.org