Commentary: Being Critical of the Critics who write reviews for wine, plays and more (Listen)



Commentary by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss: People who review books, fashion and wine… how do they know so much about the items they review and what gives them the authority of what the critics have to say? With more on this subject, here is MTSU Professor of Journalism Dr. Larry Burriss – of course he too is reviewing, but more specifically, he is reviewing the critics…



Commentary – Verbatim of Above Audio: “Spanish matador Domingo Ortega once wrote, “Bullfight critics ranked in rows, crowd the enormous plaza full. But only one is there who knows, and he’s the man who fights the bull.”

The quote gained popularity when it was used by President John Kennedy to describe the often unfair criticism of those at the top of the political and social pyramid.

That, in turn, got me to thinking about people who review books, television, fashion and wine, why we assume they know what they are talking about, and why we think what they think really matters.

I guess my issue isn’t so much these folks write reviews. After all, anyone can write a review. My issue is the self-importance they place on themselves, and their assumption they can somehow set a standard the rest of us are supposed to follow.

Of course, nothing forces us to believe what the critics say, much less act on what they write.

I was reading a review of reviewers the other day, and this writer was doing the very things he was accusing all of the other reviewers of doing. His review was riddled with psycho-babble, just like what he was complaining about.

And when I’m feeling particularly uncharitable I have to ask, if the critics know so much about what movies and television programs should look like, why aren’t they directing them?

Maybe I just don’t get it. After all, I don’t recall ever sitting in a movie and thinking, “That is certainly interesting character development,” or “That’s an unusual juxtaposition of music and color.” And I wonder if movie directors ever do that either.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit I read the reviews, too. And I write critical reviews of reviewers, and in the process probably do the same things I accuse them of doing.

So, just listen to me, not those other folks, and I’ll tell you the right way to think, and why you should think it. – I’m Larry Burriss.”


About Dr. Burriss

Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss’ publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.