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Music critic Greg Kot leaving Chicago Tribune
Kot said his immediate plans include caring for his elderly father and continuing to operate Over The Edge, his Chicago-based business that helps prepare boys and girls to play competitive basketball.
When I was a snotty younger man I dismissed Kot as a jobber with no real opinions or insight. As a grownup I get how fucking hard his job really was and how really good he was at it. And how there's really nobody doing that anywhere anymore, is there? That general but specific, national and local, broad and weird, art and biz, coverage. He was really good at all that plus a solid journalist and a super nice guy.
Back when he wrote his Wilco book he sat with me for about an hour and patiently answered all my dopey questions
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I have been thinking a lot about Kot the "rock critic" this morning, and one of the things that struck me was that his style was to exert pressure over time. The other type of critic is the kind who takes big swings with every opportunity.
I used to think that the latter was the "better" way to be a critic (and most of my own work has followed that model) but I'm not so sure anymore. One thing that has absolutely changed is that fucking Twitter has given everyone on earth an axe. Chop, chop, chop! I think this has made the "big swings" method inherently less utilitarian. The blade is just soooo dull.
To make things worse, there are so few stable positions of critical power left in the media world that "pressure over time" isn't really a viable strategy either. The model of Internet media is inherently anti-criticism because click-revenue media is based on feeding people what they want and few actually want to be challenged, which is what good criticism does. Oh sure, people will say they love to read negative reviews, but only when those reviews reinforce their already formed opinions, as the number one thing people seek out from a review is confirmation. Make me look smart, critic!
But it's far easier for critics to align themselves philosophically with their audience such that they don't have to engage in criticism at all. Say what the corporation wants you to say, in a way that your audience wants to hear it, and it's a win-win-win! You get to keep your access intact (because that's the first thing to go these days, screw you even if you work for a name publication and you don't toe the corporate line), the audience is happy and hopefully burnishes your fame, and most of all, everybody makes lots of money.