Faculty Publications

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Publication Date

July 2004

Publication Title

Journalism History

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Journalism Studies | Mass Communication


This article completes a three-part examination of theater critics working for Chicago newspapers during the twentieth century. The first article in the series covered the "boomtown" period leading up to World War I, and the second article addressed Chicago's rise after 1960 as a regional center for theater covered by fewer newspapers and fewer critics. This article reviews those periods but emphasizes the middle, "road town" period, which saw a gradually dwindling band of critics functioning as quality control experts, passing judgment on New York road shows. After examining that period, this article uses commodification to consider the changing role of the critic over the entire century. It concludes that while commodification is a useful concept to understand vast changes in the critical landscape, it is neither an irresistible nor an inevitable force.