But as this Playbill article mentions, Rooney is merely the latest addition to a line of theatre critics who've been let go by more mainstream publications, replaced by freelancers if they're replaced at all. (By default, Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press is probably the most influential mainstream theatre critic in the United States.)
I know there's the argument that criticism hasn't declined, it's simply changed, gotten more dispersed and democratic with the advent of blogging. There are more theatre critics nowadays, not fewer.
Well, bloggers can pick up some of the slack and we do have a role to play. Our passion for theatre goes a long way toward keeping the conversation going. We can be a great source about what's going on in New York and elsewhere and our reviews are widely read.
But as I see it, there are a few obstacles to theatre bloggers taking over the world:
- we're preaching to the choir, people come looking for us because they're already interested in the subject; (Does anyone aimlessly browse the Internet?)
- few of us, even on a great day, reach as many people as a TV station, radio station, magazine, newspaper or their Web sites;
- since most of us don't blog for a living, we pick and choose what we write about. We don't have an obligation to cover everything in our communities.
All of this may not mean as much to Broadway or to a major regional theatre company that will still get coverage, that have built-in audiences.
But what about the small company just starting out? How does it get noticed? What about a theatre in a community where there aren't a lot of theatre bloggers to pick up the slack?
And there's one more thing that troubles me about the decline of general-interest criticism. Our culture has become so decentralized, with everyone wrapped up in their own little sources of information, that we've lost the opportunity for serendipity.
That means there's less chance we'll come across something we've never heard of, never thought about reading or attending or listening to, but our curiosity has been piqued. It means there's even less chance that a non-theatergoer will hear about the theatre.