This morning I awoke to the depressing news that Entertainment Weekly has laid off its longtime lead film critic, Owen Gleiberman. I don’t even read EW anymore (it’s so terrible now!), but I grew up reading Gleiberman’s reviews, and I still sometimes read him online. No matter what you think of his writing or his opinions (I disagree with him at least half of the time), he was a legitimately intelligent voice who wasn’t afraid to challenge readers or the Hollywood PR machine. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he isn’t going to be replaced; instead, EW will be focusing more on content provided by “superfans with passion and unique voices”—or, as the rest of the world likes to call them, unpaid bloggers. Gleiberman is just the latest in a long string of professional film critics to be laid off in recent years; it’s already gotten to the point that the job, effectively, has ceased to exist. There are still a number of old-timers holding onto posts at major magazines and newspapers, but when they go, odds are that they will not be replaced; assuming these publications even continue to publish reviews, they’ll get them from young freelancers working at subsistence-level rates (or less.) The average moviegoer probably doesn’t care much, because the average moviegoer doesn’t value informed, professional criticism. Which is fine—it’s not for everybody. But what gets me angry is that so many people these days talk about professional critics as if they serve no purpose—as if the random opinions of anonymous bloggers are every bit as good. But the only people who actually think that are, of course, people who don’t care about criticism or critical thought. (If you do care, you know that great criticism is only possible when a talented writer is given the time and space to practice it regularly, for a living wage.) Which is why my response to the critic haters is always: tone it down. Stop reading critics if you don’t value them! And leave those of us who do value them alone to enjoy their work! Soon, all the strong voices will be gone. There will always be talented critics out there, working for free on the margins of the Internet, but the days of trusted, widely-known voices like Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, Vincent Canby et al is pretty much over.