I guess we are indeed winding down, since once again I agree with you almost completely about the problem with newspaper cultural covrerage. But why not — you agreed almost completely with my last posting on that same subject. And of course the Times is part of the larger problem, too, tho insulated by its attention to culture, based in part on business calculation and in part on Sulzberger family values. You ask if my high-culture cred helped me get the pop-critic job in the early 70’s. Sure. Today, I would think a little low-culture cred would be helpful to anyone aspiring to a high-cutlure job. And sure, corporate exploitation of boomer trangressive attitudes and music and iconography to sell products is all-pervasive, but it’s at least as amusing as it is repellent.
The question of where criticism is headed on the Internet is trickier. It has certainly enabled niche critics to find niche audiences. There is great stuff to read out there, if you have the time and savvy to seek it out. Maybe critics will be more important than ever, given the thickets of imformation to hack through. But the question is indeed how to support them. You say cirtics are “leaving the profession,” meaning paying newspaper jobs. But where are they going? Not to the Internet, yet, if they want a living wage. And as soon as the corporations figure out how to make real money from the Internet, through advertising or whatever, they may hire cirtics but they will again impose the same corporate oppression and compromises that prevail in print journalism today.
And I’m not so sure that the proliferation of niche audiences is a entirely a good thing. I’m from the 60’s. We valued community back then. Whether the community is a stadium sports event or a Canegie Hall concert (or a Nazi rally, I suppose), there is something exciting about sharing your enthusiasm with the many. Maybe a virtual community can provide that charge, maybe not. But as the audience splinters into niches (remember “demographics,” the record-industry buzzword of yore), any illusion of a truly national community (or world — remember Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”) imperiled. In the 60’s we all thought everyone listened to Bob Dylan and the Beatles; the voices of a generation, and all that. But it was more white college students. Maybe Sam Cooke or Stevie Wonder or Bob Marley was more universal, more of a catalyst for a community. The arts can fulfill individual needs and desires. But they can also bind us together. Does the Internet help us realize that ideal, or threaten it?