Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Who Gets to Give Their Opinion?

I first became aware of the attitudes of some print reviewers towards bloggers by reading Liz Burns' related posts on A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Teacozy last year. One commenter remarked:

"And just why is someone who gets paid to do something more qualified than someone who doesn't? I mean, sure that works in a professional setting - you want a Doctor who has gone to med school not one who has just read a lot of books on the subject. But Reviews are opinions. And anyone is entitled to an opinion. The quality of the review comes through no matter the format.

And sure, I suppose there could be some poor reviews on blogs. I mean if someone wrote "That book s***ed because I don't like books about rabbits" well, you wouldn't give it much credence. But those aren't the kind of reviews I see every day in the kidslitosphere."
Indeed, many of the "cream of the crop" blogs are written by librarians and teachers, who may not get paid to review books but certainly are immersed in the world of children's and young adult literature at their day jobs. Does this mean that they are qualified, but the person with degrees in Industrial Engineering isn't? Absolutely not! I don't see anything in the National Book Critics Circle tips about what needs to be on your educational or work background; you just need to know what you're talking about.

I happen to be a music reviewer at Yes, I've played the violin since third grade, so I have a grasp of major v. minor keys, time signatures, etc. But I can't sing, I can't write songs, and I have never put out an album. My degree was in Technical Writing; I have worked in PR, publishing, and corporate communications for the past 15 years. So what business do I have reviewing other people's music? Well, I know what I'm talking about. I wouldn't necessarily review a heavy metal or Brazilian pop album; I don't really have a frame of reference. But alt country or Britpop? Sign me up.

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