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Everyone’s A Critic? Openness as a Means to Closure in Cultural Journalism

The M in CITAMS@30

ISBN: 978-1-78769-670-9, eISBN: 978-1-78769-669-3

ISSN: 2050-2060

Publication date: 30 November 2018


The role of everyday citizens in the production of knowledge has become central to the study of media sociology. This interest is fueled by the growth of information communication technologies that have made it easier for amateurs to produce and disseminate content. The world of book reviewing – an exemplar of a field transformed by digitalization – concerns about the rise of amateurs manifests in the grievance that, “Nowadays, everyone’s a critic.” This chapter empirically investigates this idea by asking: Who is qualified to be a reviewer? The chapter draws on in-depth interviews with review editors, critics, and bloggers who have successfully crossed over to publish in some of the most important outlets in the English-publishing field. Analysis reveals that openness is central to ideas of what qualifies someone to be a book reviewer and how reviewers subsequently get work. Openness, however, is an example of noncertifiable skills, which are ascertained primarily through informal methods such as turning toward one’s personal and professional networks for recommendations from peers or relying on personal face-to-face encounters. A practical consequence of this selection criterion is that only reviewers who are known to book review editors in this specific way (i.e., their tastes and esthetic openness) are eligible candidates for professional review assignments. In this way, the commitment to openness as a professional value among book reviewers actually operates as a mechanism of closing their occupational boundaries.




I thank Bonnie Erickson, Mark Pachucki, and Jing Shen for their useful comments on previous drafts of the chapter.


Chong, P.K. (2018), "Everyone’s A Critic? Openness as a Means to Closure in Cultural Journalism", The M in CITAMS@30 (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 99-119.



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