A Note about Critiques

By Colin Donohue

The Pendulum students have been levying criticism at the convention critique process. I thought I’d weigh in briefly about this issue. To begin, I think their points are well taken. I would bet that most advisers and other ACP/CMA personnel would acknowledge that the critique system would be more fruitful, if critiquers were given the opportunity to review products beforehand. That’s intuitive. It makes sense. That’s been my experience, when I’ve critiqued. But what we don’t know (the nebulous “we” largely refers to me and the students) are the logistics behind this operation.

What I do know are these three things:

  1. Jessica Clary, of the Savannah College of Art and Design, does tremendous work organizing the critiques and finding advisers to staff them. She deserves a hearty kudos and free meals for every day she’s at the conference.
  2. We should applaud the advisers who volunteer to offer critiques. They’re generously donating time and making true efforts to give students meaningful feedback.
  3. The critiques are a welcome part of every conference, and something students typically always look forward to.

I’m not sure I have a solution to some of the complaints raised by the Pendulum students. I, too, wonder whether links to websites could be made available to advisers before doing online critiques. I, too, wonder whether we could get pages or an edition of a paper or magazine to a critiquer ahead of time. But I don’t know what kind of headache that would cause. If it’s even feasible to begin with. It seems like there’s some middle ground to explore.

Maybe when students sign up for critiques, we ask them to upload the latest edition of their paper or link to an online version of it. Same for URLs and other publications. Then, when advisers are assigned a critique, they can log in to the system and access those materials beforehand. This wouldn’t require advisers to do full mark ups of news products ahead of time. It would just allow them to peruse the materials for a little bit before the critique, so that the discussion could be targeted.

David Simpson, of Georgia Southern University, also suggested that students tell the critiquer the two or three things they’d like to discuss/improve on. That would allow the adviser looking over the publication to key in on BIG ideas related to those concepts. That’s a good idea.

In the end, the Pendulum students haven’t had problems with the people doing the critiques, only problems with the process itself. They’re not completely wrong, but they’re also not aware of how the whole thing comes together, and whether there is room to make slight adjustments.

And for those interested, the final critique stats, which Clary sent to CMA advisers today:

Total newspaper critiques: 121
Total online critiques: 31
Total magazine critiques: 24
Total yearbook critiques: 18

Total critiques Thursday: 70
Total critiques Friday: 54
Total critiques Saturday: 70

Thank you to everyone involved with the critiquing process!

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