I've had a subscription to Entertainment Weekly for years now. It's partially a guilty pleasure, but it's also the way I keep track of popular culture that I don't actively participate in, like all the television shows I don't watch, and all the video games I don't play. Now, it looks like I'll be canceling my subscription and finding other ways to obtain weekly surveys of pop culture. EW just fired their lead film critic Owen Gleiberman, who has been with the paper since it started in 1990.
On the surface, that's not entirely bad news. I'm not a fan of Glieberman and his weird peccadilloes (he irrationally loathes the Coen Brothers, for instance, and he sometimes becomes a passionate defender of total shit movies) but his firing is not the only change occurring at the magazine. According to the New York Post, "Matt Bean, who jumped from the Sports Illustrated website in February to become the new editor of Entertainment Weekly, is shaking up EW’s editorial ranks" by firing old hands and bringing on people who worked with him at Sports Illustrated. That's not a good sign.
But this is the worst sign of all—Scott Meslow at The Week writes:
In the Hunger Games-esque world of online journalism, everyone is looking for ways to cut costs and increase traffic. Unfortunately, industry giant Entertainment Weekly has hit on the most depressing and shameful strategy for doing just that: Exploiting hundreds of aspiring professional writers for a new platform called "The Community," which will rely on a base of "community contributors" — the vast majority of whom will be paid absolutely nothing for their work.
You can ignore Entertainment Weekly's spin about "passion and unique voices." This is a deeply cynical decision that feeds off the dreams of inexperienced writers who are hoping to make a name for themselves in entertainment journalism. According to a story in Digiday, The Community will be made up of bloggers discovered "through social media and J-schools." Let's call that what it really is: Entertainment Weekly taking advantage of young writers who want to launch their careers, but aren't sure where else they can be published.
But I don't understand what these writers will be writing for, if not for money. You can't use the old "exposure" canard because it's obviously a lie: If a magazine the size and circulation of Entertainment Weekly isn't going to pay for writing, these up-and-coming writers obviously don't have any hope of getting a job writing for a glossy entertainment magazine. This is just a cynical, calculating way to prop up a magazine that obviously doesn't have any life left in it.
So, uh, how do you keep track of pop culture, Slog? I'm in need of a new survey of movies, TV, video games, and music, and gushy sources like People or Us Weekly aren't going to do it for me.