“Your Entertainment. Your Standards.” is the tagline of the recently-launched (late April) group blog LDS Review. It’s an interesting discursive move on the part of the creators of the site. They are clearly targeting a specific audience — the orthodox, active LDS audience — and a specific market — products that show up on the shelves of LDS bookstores. They let us know that first by stating that the entertainment is “ours” (as opposed to “the worlds”), and then by telling us that the works they review are going to be selected and reviewed by LDS standards. This idea of Mormon-centric entertainment that conforms to certain standards seems to be one that motivates a large part of the LDS audience — judging by what works sell well and what stocking decisions Deseret Book and Seagull, the two largest booksellers, make.
In addition, I find it interesting that they’ve chosen to avoid the “Mormon” label and call the site “LDS Review” and use LDS as the primary identifying adjective in their reviews. I’ve noticed the same choice made in other places. Part of it is probably in response to the movement several years ago by the Church public relations people to use LDS as an identifier instead of Mormon. But I also think that the reason the practice has persisted is because it is, in part, a reactionary move in response to those who have broadened the term Mormon to include cultural or even disaffected LDS (i.e. not active and/or believing LDS).
Now I’m not saying that this type of calculation went into the naming of the site. Nor am I criticizing it. I merely am trying to show how the branding choices the sites creators made signal the demographic they are going for.
And for what it’s worth, here at A Motley Vision, I tend to use LDS when I’m talking about active, believing members, but my use of Mormon varies. Sometimes it is used in a big-tent sense; sometimes I use it even when I’m talking mainly about or to active LDS (recognizing, of course, that active LDS still encompasses a broad range of audiences not all of whom fit into the desiring LDS-oriented art with standards category).
LDS Review’s project is an ambitious one. Seven reviewers are going to review film, music and books that are oriented towards the Mormon market. There’s a need for this type of venture. The AML does great book and film reviews, but not music. Meridian Magazine has some reviews, but not many. If LDS Review can put together a track record of consistent updates and a substantial body of reviews, and they are able to garner traffic, I think that they can become an important voice in the LDS market.
One of the things that I like about their reviews is that while they are clearly focused on the orthodox LDS market, they aren’t afraid to criticize the works they review. There has been a tendency, in my opinion, to uncritically receive any work that appears in the market. As long as it fits in the “your entertainment, your standards” category, it gets rubberstamped as of good report for the Mormon-LDS audience.
One of the great things about their CD reviews is that in addition to offering a written assessment, the reviewers also give the works number grades in the categories of Production, Songwriting, Performance and Overall. To see what I mean, take a look Andrew’s review of Clay in His Hands by Jessie Clark.
I especially like the idea of a production category. Traditionally, one of the problems with some LDS products has been that they have very low production values. Anything that helps the Mormon audience become more picky about the production of LDS products is a very good thing. In fact, I’d like to see them add number grades and categories to the film and book reviews. Editing could be a category for both films and books. Cover art for DVD’s and books. Sound for films. Etc.
Although I would have liked to see them take a broader stance in relation to the Mormon market, I understand why LDS Review is doing what they do and hope they can sustain it. In fact, if I was Meridian Magazine [yes, Proctors, this means you], I would look at making LDS Review a content partner. As I mention above, Meridian’s weak point is its mediocre treatment of the world of LDS literature, music and film. Yes, they run some reviews and articles, but as has been pointed before [sorry, no source for this], Meridian’s book reviews are mainly Covenant authors reviewing books by other Covenant authors.
With more content and a stable of reviewers who, at least so far, seem to be in tune with the LDS audience — critical but faithful so-to-speak — Meridian Magazine could increase its appeal, especially, I think to younger readers. LDS Review still needs to prove it can put out a steady stream of reviews, but judging by the way the editorial face of the site has been put together, it’s on the right track.
Again, this is all said within the constraints of the project/ambitions the site’s creators have laid out. If I were to do a multi-authored, review-oriented blog, I would take a much different editorial approach.