February 27, 2007

An open letter.

To: The Seattle Weekly
From: Michael Seiwerath, Executive Director, Northwest Film Forum

Seattle Weekly The Seattle Weekly review of Our Daily Bread, credited to Village Voice film critic J Hoberman, is a distressing insight into the state of film criticism at our city's oldest continuously running alternative weekly. From a longer November 14th, 2006 Village Voice review encompassing the documentary Our Daily Bread and Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation, the Weekly printed a botched cut-and-paste truncation.

What ran in the February 21 edition of the Weekly is a recombinant jumble, devoid of time or place. Hacked from the end of the original review, the Weekly piece contains unexplained, unintelligible references to Nation. The reader is left confused, with a mess of an article that is only made clear by some internet research into what happened four months ago and 3000 miles away. More than simply an editorial production error, this virtual review is the systemic result of a flawed new business model.

The planned efficiencies of media consolidation by the New Times are failing. Without a film editor and consistent criticism written by local writers, the reviews often contain factual errors and obvious references to openings in other cities. This is a system that is no longer serving either the reader or the advertising base. Borrowing from J Hoberman's description of a fast food hamburger, the individual review has become "the ground residue of many, many messily butchered animals."

Update, 2/28: Jim Emerson comments: "What is 'alternative' about these weeklies if they're running the same syndicated copy their sister papers print in other towns?"



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Posted by dwhudson at February 27, 2007 11:54 AM

Comments

'Bout friggin' time! Hope it's heard (and read)

Posted by: Jerry Lentz at February 27, 2007 12:27 PM

Amen.

Posted by: Josh at February 27, 2007 12:32 PM

New Times will just use it as an excuse to refuse their reviewers from ever reviewing two movies in a single piece. Hoberman's original review was probably published months ago, so I imagine that's *already* their policy, to prevent this sort of problem in the future. When A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints played in Seattle, the editors at the Seattle Weekly condensed Rob Nelson's positive review from the Voice down to just a few choice wise cracks. I read this truncation, and nearly missed seeing this movie I'd made a point of noting when I'd first heard about it--then I decided to see what the longer review online said. Since that time, I don't do any more than glance at the names of the movies playing in the Weekly--if I see a review by a critic I trust, of a film I'm interested in, I'll go to the Voice website, but the Seattle Weekly is of no further use to me. With luck, New Times will kill every one of the papers they've purchased, and then maybe all these towns can start fresh--it's probably time.

Posted by: ratzkywatzky at February 27, 2007 10:06 PM