The LA Times reports that art critics at most newspapres don’t criticize art. A new survey by the National Arts Journalism Program says that only 27% of art critics think their job is to form opinions about art, while a whopping 91% believe they are writing to educate the public.
The goal sounds benign, but its courtly arrogance is actually astounding. When a writer begins with the presumption that the reader is uneducated about the subject – or at least not as well educated as he – be prepared to be bored silly by what is written. Worse, a creeping tone of superciliousness is almost impossible to escape.
The problem grows acute in the Age of the Internet, when access to news is less bound by the geographic issues of distribution that historically circumscribed newspapers. At every waking moment, any sane writer ought to be aware that somewhere, out in the ether, lurk readers who know a hell of a lot more about the particular subject of his discourse than he will ever know. Condescend to them and you’re toast.