HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Open-mic journalism: How The Arizona Republic found success with storytelling events
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 18, 2013, 3:02 p.m.

From Nieman Reports: Maria Popova on the critic as celebrator

“But in conceiving of criticism as a value system for what is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ worthy or unworthy, there is another, implicit shape ‘criticism’ can take — a celebration of the good by systematic omission of the bad.”
Editor’s note: Our colleagues at our sister publication Nieman Reports are out with their new issue, and there’s a lot of great stuff in there for any journalist to check out. Over the next few days, we’ll share excerpts from a few of the stories that we think would be of most interest to Nieman Lab readers. Be sure to check out the entire issue.

Here, Maria Popova tries to define one path for criticism: “I write about books, but I don’t write reviews. I write recommendations, based on my own taste.”

nieman-reports-winter-2013“Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol,” Susan Sontag wrote in her diary in 1964. “In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning,” George Orwell cautioned in “Politics and the English Language.” Zadie Smith lamented “the essential hubris of criticism,” noting, “When I write criticism I’m in such a protected position: Here are my arguments…here my rhetorical flourish. One feels very pleased with oneself.”

Bedeviled by these pitfalls as traditional criticism might be — an echo chamber of ideas, vacant verbosity, protected preciousness — online criticism has arguably only exacerbated the issue.

But in conceiving of criticism as a value system for what is “good” or “bad,” worthy or unworthy, there is another, implicit shape “criticism” can take — a celebration of the good by systematic omission of the bad. To put in front of the reader only works that are worthy, and to celebrate those with a consistent editorial standard, is to create a framework for what “good” means, and thus to implicitly outline the “bad,” the unworthy, by way of negative space around the good. The celebrator then becomes a critic without being critical — at least not with the abrasive connotations the term has come to bear — yet upholds the standards of “good” and “bad” work with just as much rigor.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     March 18, 2013, 3:02 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Open-mic journalism: How The Arizona Republic found success with storytelling events
The four-year-old program has helped boost the newspaper’s events business and helped strengthen relationships with the community through nights of storytelling.
Newsonomics: Buying Yelp — and making it the next core of the local news and information business
The pricetag would be high, but it might be worth it to reassemble one part of the old newspaper bundle — tying together local news and local services.
Crossing the streams: Why competing publications are deciding to team up on podcasts
Low financial risk and a desire for word-of-mouth sharing have led news sites to collaborate, sharing audience and infrastructure.
What to read next
953
tweets
The State of the News Media 2015: Newspapers ↓, smartphones ↑
The annual omnibus report from Pew outlines a story of continued trends more than radical change.
561The Upshot uses geolocation to push readers deeper into data
The New York Times story changes its text depending on where you’re reading it: “It’s a fine line between a smarter default and being creepy.”
422Knight Foundation invests $1 million in creator-driven podcast collective Radiotopia
The money will help PRX’s collective of public media-minded shows develop sustainable business models and expand with new shows and producers.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Windy Citizen
Journal Register Co.
The Nation
Detroit Free Press and Detroit News
Tumblr
PBS
FactCheck.org
Tampa Bay Times
The Globe and Mail
Time
Gannett
Talking Points Memo