Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Critics: The Ethical Struggle for Perfection

Trianna Connolly

When you think of the word "critic" does your mind automatically jump to the word "biased"? Mine sure does, which is weird because critics are supposed to be journalists and journalists naturally are not theoretical biased. In fact, they are supposed to speak the truth and only the truth. So why is it then that critics get away with what is basically stating their opinion on a certain matter, whether entertainment or food? Are we, as readers, supposed to immediately trust what they say and believe it's truth due to the fact that they have the title of journalist? What even qualifies critics to have that title?

Are they even considered "real" journalists? 
First of all, what does it even mean to be identified as a "real" journalist? That statement is as condescending as saying someone is not a "real" doctor. Are they just pretending to do the job they worked hard in school to achieve? I feel like a lot of people look at critics in that spectrum- those people who pretend to know what they are talking about but it isn't really relevant to anything going on in the world.

No, the work doesn't include investigative reporting, intense interviews, or even hard hitting breaking stories that appear on the five o'clock news. Nonetheless, though, critics of all kind influence the perspective of the audience and give insight on current events happening within a society. That reason alone is what makes a critic a "real" journalist

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How their opinion influences the audience
Let's face the facts- the reason you didn't go see that new movie last Friday was due to the bad review it received in the local newspaper. Not only did the film critic influence the decision that was made, they harmed sales for the particular movie while also saving a potential customer from wasting their night spending money on a poorly made comedy.

Critics are viewed in positive and negative ways. What they have to say can lead to a business going under or rising from the ashes. Their professional views can cost someone a once in a life time experience or save that person from a decade of regret. These seem like dramatic cases, but in all reality, what a critic says tends to be path most people build their social life around.
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Do they even follow an ethical code?
One of the major issues that arise with critics are whether or not they are ethical in their reviews. Do they display the whole truth or are they only stating their opinion on what they thought was right?
In both the entertainment and food scenes, basic ethical codes are established that cover issues concerning fairness, honesty, and respect for others and their work. According to Association of Food Journalists, a good review equals good journalism. Critics don't aim to give bad reviews on restaurants or events; they want to give good reviews and maybe some hard criticism through feedback on things that might need to change.

Reviewers have to follow the same standards of professional responsibility as any other journalist. This means not abusing the power given through the position to be bias or lie about a certain meal or theater production that didn't fascinate the critic on a personal level. Critics must look past their own views and critique through the perspective of the potential audience.

Above all, though, under the ethics code, critics avoid conflicts of interest. It is very easy to accept something that is offered for free, such as a meal or an extra movie ticket. Reviewers do not accept these offers, though, because not only would it take away from the experience as a whole, it would be ethically wrong. This is the reason that some critics go incognito when out at events, so that no one will recognize them.
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Transparency is the key to a critic's success 
I feel like the most important thing for critics to focus on in the news industry is transparency. It should be the duty and responsibility of a reviewer to disclaim to the audience whether his or her review on a restaurant, show, music performance, or film is biased. If a critic cannot be straightforward from the beginning, then how is the audience to know what is and is not credible? The Kansas City Star requires that entertainment and art critics stay until the end of a performance or disclose to the readers that they had to leave early due to a deadline. 

Everyone makes mistakes
Nobody is perfect. We all have our flaws that we try to conceal but are so bluntly obvious that there really is no point trying to hide them. Critics are just people, people who can influence the outcome of a major business, but still people.  Their job is to go into a situation with an open mind, but sometimes their own beliefs get in the way of reason. I believe this is a major reason why so many critics can come off as horrible people. Society seems to view them in two different ways: an instigator for change or the messenger of doom.
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