Yesterday, the already-shrunken world of media reporting lost its two grandest figures: Jim Romenesko, the quiet man who singlehandedly set the agenda, like a front page editor for all media news (semi-retiring, by choice); and Slate's Jack Shafer—America's most consistently fearless press critic (laid off). Step back. Look around at the smoldering carnage of the media critic landscape. Who's left to carry the "harassing one's own industry colleagues" torch? A brief look, below.
David Carr: media columnist, New York Times
Carr is left as America's last famous media critic, especially with his new movie stardom. He must be feeling lonely. He should be, right about now.
Howard Kurtz: DC bureau chief, The Daily Beast
Spouter of conventional wisdom. Platitudinous. Inessential. Kurtz has always been a strong media *reporter* and bland, worthless media critic.
Michael Wolff: editor, Adweek
He's still making noise and making people as uncomfortable as he can, which has always been his chief M.O. His media criticism is no longer essential reading, but on his pet topics (like News Corp) he's usually good for a fresh insight or two, amidst the name-calling.
James Rainey: media writer, LA Times
Rainey's not a particularly memorable writer, but he does a fair job. He also has the West Coast pretty much to himself now.
Jeff Bercovici: media writer, Forbes
John Koblin: media reporter, WWD
These guys, I submit, are the two best remaining full-time media reporters left (in New York, at least). Bercovici is a shade more towards "critic" than Koblin is, but they're both essentially media reporters with a viewpoint. There used to be lots of these things! Not any more.
Megan McCarthy: human, Mediagazer
If Romenesko's site loses popularity after his departure, its readers will move to Mediagazer, which is essentially a version of Romenesko that is more comprehensive, updated more quickly, and run by algorithm. McCarthy is its human overseer. That could make her the Romenesko of the Twitter generation. Unless the computers get her.
There are other media reporters out there (yes, lots of good media reporters! Do not send me complaints!), and there are academics and journalism-foundation types, and damn near everyone dabbles in media criticism from time to time, but in terms of real live media critics—people whose full-time job it is to form opinions on the press and disseminate them to a popular audience, on a daily basis, and this is their real job, and people in the media pay attention to them—this is the whole ballgame at the moment. (More or less! Not an exact science! Do not send me your nominations!) (Except, I forgot Erik Wemple at the Washington Post. Who is worthwhile!)
There used to be media critics at damn near every big newspaper in America! No mas. Why the decline of this "proud" field? Well, for one thing, like politics, the media is a topic on which every asshole has an opinion, and those opinions are now more easily distributed than ever. So paying for a full time media critic can seem superfluous. Also—and don't tell this to anyone who works in the media—media criticism is a very niche thing. It does not have a popular audience. It has a niche audience, like every other trade magazine-type beat. The only people who think media news is big news are media people. And the control the media! Which is why media news tends to remain visible despite the public's generally weak interest in it.
Don't believe me? How many clicks did this post get? Not as many as Gossip Roundup. "That's messed up." - A Media Critic.
[Photo of H.L. Mencken, who they don't make em like any more, via Getty]