By Phoebe Morton
Empire magazine’s Digital Editor-in-Chief James Dyer spoke today about the challenges of working in digital journalism.
Having had some experience in print journalism, he has worked in digital journalism for his whole career.
“Print writing is better than digital writing.
“The writing is so precise and beautifully crafted because it can be. Digitally, that is not the case, because every word is competing for search engine algorithms.”
Dyer was speaking as part of Leeds Trinity University’s Media and Journalism Week and also commented on the time pressure of writing reviews online in the world of the internet.
Whilst before the internet, film critics were the first port of call for saying whether a film was good or bad, “the internet was the great leveller” as anyone can post their review of a film instantly.
For this reason, Dyer said: “I avoid quick turnaround reviews like the plague.
“The Internet has devalued journalism.”
However, Dyer still takes pride in being the Digital Editor-In-Chief at Empire, due to its longstanding reputation.
“Empire is a name that people trust…We have a rule whereby no one who has done a set visit is allowed to review the film… because there is a conflict there.”
But first impressions of a film, even for an experienced reviewer, may not be the final word.
Recounting his changing opinion on Netflix’s The Old Guard, Dyer said: “I did get it wrong.
“It must have been the mood I was in when I first saw it.”
Despite Dyer’s established position at Empire, he did not condone film snobbery.
For Dyer, a bad review comes not from when a film is bad, but when a film is disappointing compared to what it could have been.
He believed every film has good and bad elements, but that the important thing is that the reviewer tries to write a balanced review.
Speaking about Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie he said: “It’s not subtext rich, but it’s something that a lot of people enjoy.”
Dyer highlighted the importance of having a broad variety of skills, recalling his own early work experience at Empire when he would say to his colleagues: “If all of you just die, I can do this all by myself.”
He did add that neither film nor journalism qualifications were necessary to become a film and TV critic, although they might help.
What is more important is a true passion for film and television writing. “You spend your whole life trying to get somewhere, if you’re not having fun along the way, then what the f**k are you doing?”
Following the pandemic and the rise of films going straight to streaming services instead of being shown in the cinema, Dyer also gave his number one tip for watching films at home: “Put your phone away!”