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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > September 2016 > Features desk: Reviewing the basics

Features desk: Reviewing the basics

We’ve all written fan or product reviews, but credible arts journalism requires a very different skill set, says Tina Jackson


You’ve read an advance copy of new book. Or listened to a just-released album. Or watched a preview screening of a film. Or attended the opening of an art show. And now you, the writer, have the job of reviewing it.

Where do you start?

Amazon and Goodreads reviews – which are all about personal experience and enjoyment – are an integral part of today’s writer’s experience. But it’s worth bearing in mind that the job of a professional arts critic or reviewer is not at all the same as that of a peer reviewer.

The job of professional arts critic (and this includes book reviewers) is to provide information about the new book/film/whatever, place it in its cultural context, and crucially, analyse what its creator has attempted to do and whether they have succeeded. Good reviews provide their reader with the information they need to know in order to decide whether they will invest their time and attention in the new product, but they should also do more than that. A successful review will demonstrate an understanding of the product’s creator and the context within which the product was created, so it will deepen a reader’s cultural knowledge.

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