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

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

20 September, 2011

With the emergence of the internet, apps, Facebook, Twitter and whatever bit comes next, the critic is under attack.

In the new media landscape, there has been a proliferation of platforms. The ensuing democratisation of opinion ensures that all pronouncements are regarded as equal, or at least equal-ish. Now that any punter with an ISP is good to go, no one commentator’s opinion counts for more than anyone else’s. Hence we are witnessing a radical overhaul of both the way reviewing is conducted, and the way reviewing is received.

In the past, a critic chosen for ability and expertise would see his or her standing grow according to their work. With time, a talented critic would become recognised as an authority, in part thanks to the backing of an established media platform such as a newspaper or TV network. This is the David Stratton model, harking back to the "true judges" of David Hume.

More recently, with new media platforms multiplying the number of voices, anyone with an opinion can start disseminating it wildly and widely. If they cover the right ground and hit the right notes, they can become hugely popular, regardless of expertise or insight. This is the Perez Hilton model, harking back to a long list of under-informed hecklers.

Have Hume’s true judges, those unimpeachable arbiters of quality, been vanquished by an army of upstart arbiters? Or were the true judges a con all along? What are the pros and cons of the Stratton and Hilton models? Which model is more open to corruption and undue influence? Which is more likely to chime with consumers’ opinions? And which is more likely to stand the test of time?

In short, what is the future of criticism?


Stephanie Bendixsen

Stephanie Bendixsen is a dedicated nerd and avid video games addict, 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 Magazine.


James Bradley

James Bradley is 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 His new novel, Black Friday, will be published next year.


Sacha Molitorisz

Sacha Molitorisz In 1973, the Sydney Opera House opened to five star acclaim. That same year, four-year-old Sacha Molitorisz arrived in Australia from Germany to mixed reviews. Since then, the Opera House has become recognised as one of the world's most beloved cultural hotspots, whereas Sacha has become recognised as a features writer at the Sydney Morning Herald, where he assiduously reviews films, DVDs, CDs, TV shows, books and offers of redundancy.

Bernard Zuel

Bernard Zuel is a senior journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald and is the chief music critic. He has been writing about the arts for 25 years, going from typewriters to tweets. Sometimes he’s even been read.


Sue Turnbull

Panel moderator

Sue Turnbull is Professor of Communication and Media at the University of Wollongong and 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.