What the internet means for the old-fashioned print critic is the end of institutional authority. That so many of these critics mistake institutional authority for critical authority says everything you need to know.
Once upon a time (say, a decade or so ago), it was enough to work for an august masthead like The Age or The Australian to ensure a certain status. It didn’t matter if your work was relentlessly mediocre, as were Leonard Radic’s reviews in his three grey decades as Age theatre critic. The institution guaranteed status and respect. “Authority”, in other words, was vested in an institution rather than in the quality of a critic’s work. In the best circumstances, publications gain lustre from the quality of their critics (Michael Billington for The Guardian, Kenneth Tynan for the London Evening Standard). But in the worst, as so often has been the case in Australia, the situation has been the other way around: the critic has been important because of where she is published.
It’s a great essay that is applicable to a lot more than just theatre criticism. Old media keeps on looking down on new media because they see the internet as “Here be Dragons” (or at least trolls). Croggon points out that it is the clashes with the wild and raucous that sharpen bloggers’ wits and help the best rise far above mediocrity.
That’s more than can be said for someone who got their job by being charming in their 20s and keeps it by being smarmy as they age (this last sentiment is entirely mine, not any paraphrase of Croggon’s).