The LA Weekly columnist recently discussed the evolving role of the critic in today’s public discourse. Missed the lecture? Watch it here: http://bit.ly/f7agOq

With thousands of restaurant, book or theater reviews available to any consumer via Facebook, Twitter and user-generated content sites such as Yelp, what’s the role of a critic in today’s public discourse? Jonathan Gold, an acclaimed restaurant critic and Pulitzer Prize winner, explored this question as the featured speaker at this year’s Johnston Lecture. The lecture, “Experts in the Age of Citizen Journalism,” took place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 7 in the Harrington Room of the John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes on the corner of 13th Avenue and Agate Street.

Deemed “the high-low priest of the L.A. food scene” by The New Yorker, Gold is the first and only Pulitzer-Prize winning food writer. For more than 25 years, he has chronicled Los Angeles’ culinary offerings, writing for California magazines, newspapers and weeklies, including the L.A. Times and Gourmet magazine. Also a published book author, Gold has awarded more than 200 restaurants his “Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles” stamp of approval. Currently, Gold is the restaurant critic for the L.A. Weekly, where he has been writing since 1984.

Gold has witnessed journalism’s shift from print to digital firsthand. He has seen the number of self-proclaimed food bloggers skyrocket and watched the evolution of the “civic journalist.”

“In the world of Yelp, Facebook and Twitter, you’re reading hundreds, possibly thousands, of reviews,” he explains. “The individual critic is now just one indicator among thousands. If you’re in LA and you want to go to a restaurant, you can go on Yelp and see 400 or 500 reviews. In San Francisco, sometimes up to 3,000 or 4,000. The reviews that show up on your Blackberry are usually pretty random – someone really liked or didn’t like the restaurant – and you try to form an opinion based on this.”

Conversely, social media has added to the discourse in a way that a critic can’t, Gold adds. For example, he says, if there’s an out-of-the-way coffee shop that is frequented by second-generation Taiwanese teenagers, “it allows you to hear from those second-generation Taiwanese teenagers – rather than just some middle-aged white guy.”

About the Johnston Lecture

The Richard W. and Laurie Johnston Memorial Project brings professionals to the school for campus lectures, workshops, and discussions with students, faculty members, and members of the community. It honors the late Dick Johnston, a gifted magazine editor, writer and war correspondent who devoted himself to high-quality journalism, and the late Laurie Johnston, a 1936 graduate whose pioneering newspaper career spanned six decades. She covered the Pacific from Pearl Harbor in 1943 for Reuters before joining the staff of Newsweek in 1946. She left there to join the staff of The New York Times in 1949, where she would become known for the humanity and wit of her writing. The project was made possible with generous gifts from the Johnston family; George E. Jones of U.S. News and World Report; and the Correspondents Fund.