Two days ago New York Daily News film critic Jack Mathews announced his retirement (via Movie City News) as of the end of Oscar season, after which he’ll head to Oregon with threats that he’ll be devoting his time to "that long-gestating novel about the college co-ed considered by many to have been the Zodiac’s first victim (it was a murder I covered as a cub reporter) and to the breeze of the Pacific." While it remains to be seen if he’ll be replaced, and by whom, Defamer is reporting the troubling news that the Detroit Free Press has bought out its film critic Terry Lawson, and has no plans to bring in a replacement, which makes the paper "the most highly circulated newspaper in the country (daily readership = 320K) without a full-time, in-house film critic."
By our research, all of the other Top 20 newspapers in the United States have at least one major, well-known critic (yes, even the Arizona Republic). However, The Freep’s move clearly signals that there’s a changing tide in the amount of importance (and budget dollars) local newspapers allocate to coverage of the movie business. The Freep appears to be content to run wire reviews for new releases (they seem to favor the criticism levied by the Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore) and, from what we’ve gathered, readers don’t seem to mind much, either. After all, there’s clearly no shortage of film criticism available on The Internets. And while movie reviews have probably never been enough to make someone throw down their two bits to pick up a copy of the Friday fishwrap, it still saddens us that there’s not enough room in the budget of a Top 20 newspaper to send someone to the movies a few times a week.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be critics.