Who is Jacob Clifton?
I was a flagship writer for Television Without Pity for 15 years, I’ve been gifted with editorships at Gawker and Tribune Media, and I am currently working in corporate content — but my first and true love is television criticism and the cultural insights that can come with it.
I believe strongly that TV benefits from what we bring to it, and I try to bring my heart and soul and full attention when I'm writing about television.
I've also had widely read TV and pop culture columns for the Austin Chronicle, Tor.com, Science and Discovery Channel, and others. The Chronicle column in particular has earned some of the biggest traffic in that site’s history.
Philosophy of Criticism
Readers come to a critic for three things, broadly: recommendations, context, and opinion.
Recommendations are too easily glib and one–size–fits–all — I’ve resisted assigning letter or numerical grades from the beginning of my career, because what is A+ for me is not necessarily A+ for you, a stranger. When we look to art for an objective answer, or an objective measure of quality, it’s dancing about architecture.
A true recommendation attaches like to like: If you enjoyed Quality A or B of Show X, you will enjoy Show Y. My recommendations follow that map.
Context is the artistry and the industry; it’s technical know–how and historical provenance.
A good critic knows not just what something is trying to do, but how well it accomplished it — and for that, you need a solid grounding in theory and craft when it comes to the creation of scripted television. And, of course, context is key to real-life events unfolding on television — a critic must be called upon to interpret those signs for their audience as well.
Opinion is often the most heavily weighted aspect of criticism, and certainly it’s what breathes life into the review and enjoyment to the reading itself.
Opinion is the conversation between the writer and the reader, and should be approached in just this way — it is the seasoning to the meal of the ingredients above, not the main course.
This is key to understanding engagement with the audience: You are telling a story about the reader, to the reader, using the medium and terms of art — not about yourself.
- Looper — Pop culture articles, written to SEO specifications
- Monster.com — SEO-rich writing about workforce management & leadership
- BuzzFeed News & Vulture — Two high-profile pieces
- Discovery & HowStuffWorks — SEO & how-to writing
- Austin Chronicle & Houston Press — TV column & music criticism
- Rotten Tomatoes — profile
- Tor.com — Culture column
- Muckrack — Another online portfolio
- Recaps & fiction free at Patreon