When the Detroit Free Press decided to offer their highly-regarded film critic Terry Lawson a voluntary buyout package over the holidays, most everyone following the situation assumed that they would quickly replace him with a younger (and less expensive) critic. However, we have since learned that The Freep, which is owned by Gannett, will NOT be replacing Terry Lawson, making it the most highly circulated newspaper in the country (daily readership = 320K) without a full-time, in-house film critic.
We called the Detroit Free Press this morning and learned from a (very confused) HR rep that "We are not planning on replacing [Terry Lawson] at this time." Very interesting. By our research, all of the other Top 20 newspapers in the United States have at least one major, well-known critic (yes, even the Arizona Republic). However, The Freep's move clearly signals that there's a changing tide in the amount of importance (and budget dollars) local newspapers allocate to coverage of the movie business. The Freep appears to be content to run wire reviews for new releases (they seem to favor the criticism levied by the Orlando Sentinel's Roger Moore) and, from what we've gathered, readers don't seem to mind much, either. After all, there's clearly no shortage of film criticism available on The Internets. And while movie reviews have probably never been enough to make someone throw down their two bits to pick up a copy of the Friday fishwrap, it still saddens us that there's not enough room in the budget of a Top 20 newspaper to send someone to the movies a few times a week.