The role of the reviewer in the age of Twitter

19 September 2011

Can anyone be a respected critic these days?
Can anyone be a respected critic these days?

You are planning on going to the movies, a restaurant, the theatre or a concert. How do you make your choice? What media do you consult online or offline and whose opinion matters?

On Tuesday 20 September Sydney Ideas at the University of Sydney is holding a panel discussion on the changing role of the reviewer.

In the past, a critic chosen for ability and expertise would, with time, become recognised as an authority, in part thanks to the backing of an established media platform such as a newspaper or TV network. David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz, the well-known ABC movie critics, are examples.

Now new media platforms have multiplied the number of sources that can be consulted. A movie fan can check Rotten Tomatoes or SModcast's Hollywood Babble-On. They can read reviews tweeted live from film festivals or use cloud critiques - the aggregated star ratings for movies on sites such as Amazon or iTunes - produced by consumers.

They could also check Metacritic, a website whose 'metascore' claims to "distil the opinions of the most respected critics writing online and in print to a single number".
So the old-world critic inhabits a new space where tweets and blogs and websites, including those aggregating judgements, supply information and opinion.

For some this means that the people they consider as the final arbiters of quality are being overshadowed by an army of upstarts while for others it is a welcome explosion of sources.

The panel discusses the role of new media as a source of criticism and review, including which models are more open to corruption and undue influence and which are more likely to stand the test of time.

The panel consists of:

  • Stephanie Bendixsen, a dedicated nerd and avid video games addict, is currently living the dream as a host on ABCTV's Good Game, a video game review show where she is known by her gamertag as Hex. She also writes for various tech and gaming websites, as well as a gaming column for Dolly.
  • James Bradley, a writer and critic. His books include three novels, Wrack, The Deep Field and The Resurrectionist and, as editor, The Penguin Book of the Ocean. He writes and reviews for a wide range of Australian and international newspapers and magazines and blogs at
  • Sacha Molitorisz, features writer at the Sydney Morning Herald, where he assiduously reviews films, DVDs, CDs, TV shows, books and offers of redundancy.
  • Bernard Zuel, chief music critic and senior journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald. He has been writing about the arts for 25 years, going from typewriting to tweeting. Sometimes he's even been read.
  • Professor Rónán McDonald, School of English, Media and Performing Arts, University of NSW and author of The Death of the Critic.
  • Sue Turnbull, the panel moderator, Professor of Communication and Media at the University of Wollongong who has published broadly in the field of media education and television studies. She is also a frequent media commentator and crime fiction reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Co-presented with the Department of Media and Communications, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney.

Event details

What: True Judge vs New Judge: the role of the reviewer in the Twitter age 

When: 6pm, Tuesday 20 September

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions

Cost: Free and open to all, with no ticket or booking required. Seating is unreserved and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 9351 4312, 0419 278 715,