Morris Dickstein in Critical Mass:
Literary journalism has always been the bastard child of serious criticism and ‘real’ journalism, the hard stuff, you know, about serial killers and five-alarm fires along with local politicians and U. S. Senators. Book review editors often have difficulty convincing their bosses that the news about books is in the books themselves, not in mega-buck contracts, bestseller chitchat, and profiles of famous authors. Truly conscientious reviewers are not exactly a beloved breed: authors sensitive to criticism detest them, publishers would love to coopt them, and academics rarely respect those who write for a wider public, not for other scholars. Yet book reviewing is where talented young critics often get their start. It encourages them to be generalists, keeping in touch with contemporary writing. It forces them to write quickly and clearly and to put flesh on their arguments, eschewing the abstract jargon of many professionals. And it contributes to a cultural conversation otherwise dominated by hot TV shows, blockbuster movies, and media-manufactured celebrities.