Tonight, some of us will gather at the Paley Center for Media to celebrate the first year of this little cultural experiment we call newcritics. It’s going to be a great night, thanks to our host Ellen….er…the fabulous Ms. Peel! You know, on some level this blog feels like a gathering of superheroes in the League of Justice hall – sure some of us use our real names, but the pen names are better. Lance Mannion and Tony Alva – they could be 70s crime shows starring James Garner and Mike Connors. Blue Girl and the Self-Styled Siren are like characters out of a Dashiell Hammett novel. We’ve also got The Shamus, Viscount LaCarte, Neddie Jingo, Trickster and Gotham Gal – what powers go along with those virtual superhero constumes?
I love the names, and I love this community. It began very simply and a year later, it remains so.
You know, newcritics is non-influential. It is non-profitable. Indeed, by any standards of the day it is non-successful.
And yet a year on, we gather to revel (some in person, some virtually) in the minor media glory – but the sweet karmic profit – of this little blog.
Why? Because we like each other. That’s obvious in the courteous style of our site, and in the ongoing conversation each week. But we’re also genuinely interested in what each of us has to say about media – about film, television, music, theater, and books. And in our careers, our disparate lives, a place to turn for some polite middlebrow conversation over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee is a very nice thing indeed.
Newcritics began after a dinner at Algonquin roundtable in the fall of 2006. The dinner brought together some political bloggers and activists to celebrate the Congressional victories by Democrats that year, taking back the House and Senate (I don’t mean to offend any Republicans hanging about – you’re most welcome). But as we sat around that table, a funny thing happened – we didn’t talk about politics very much. We talked about TV shows. And novels. And actors. I wanted to continue that conversation, but the odds of recreating that roundtable in modern times were pretty slim – so with a little fiddling around with wordpress and a little leaning on some friends and blogging buddies, that gathering became newcritics.com about a year ago.
This is an experiment, not a business. And it’s an experiment in satisfying part of our inner lives. The external ones are packed enough, but I believe many of us don’t devote enough time to our own enjoyment of art, of beauty, of sight and sound and words. The bloggers who are newcritics have vastly different experiences in life, but we all love those things – that’s the common thread – an old movie, a new drama, a single song. And this little experiment gives us just enough breathing room to explore that inner self through discussion, through connecting with others.
Most of us are old enough to remember the days when everyone was most certainly not a critic – at least not a critic with any audience outside their own kitchen or the office watercooler. Some of us have been professional critics of a sort – Jason and I were digital media critics, for example – and I know many of our writers have work that has appeared elsewhere over the years – for actual pay. Yet, we now write for each other – 400 posts over the last year, 4,000 comments in the broad discussion, 50 bloggers sharing their voices. Newcritics is indicative of a semi-professional passion that really drives social discouse online – the real discourse of depth and respect – it is, in some ways, a real cause. In this cause, we all love art and media – movies, television, music and books – and despite our busy lives we congregate to review and discuss them, fairly seriously and with good humor at this little website I’ve clumsily constructed.
In our very small, non-influential way we’re contributing to the support of art – and the appreciation of media by a wider group of thinking people. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why the Paley Center is the perfect place to mark our first year Ã¢â‚¬â€œ what happens there is important. On a large scale, the Paley Center leads the discussion about the cultural, creative, and social significance of television, radio, and emerging platforms for the professional community and media-interested public. Newcritics is the virtual grassroots complement to that mission, informally, from post to post, comment to comment, feed to feed.
And that’s about as serious as I can get about newcritics, which after all began as an experiment and continues as an experiment. Thank you for joining me over the past year, and let’s keep that conversation going.
Some of the newcritics bloggers have put up anniversary posts, answering my question on one piece of media – as usual, it’s an iconoclastic show and emblematic of what newcritics is (and isn’t!) – great stuff. Here they are: