I first started reading Roger Ebert's reviews back in 1997. I was working as a trainer at an outsourced call center company, on the CompuServe program. One of the perks was a free CompuServe account, including access to all the forums. My favorite was Ebert's movie forum. I started reading his reviews regularly...I doubt I missed more than a handful of weeks in the past decade and a half.
I didn't always agree with him, but that was usually a trashy movie I liked but he didn't. If he liked a movie, I was apt to like it, too. That's not really the point, though...I didn't read his reviews because I needed a gut-check before shelling out cash for a ticket. I read reviews of many movies I had no intention of ever seeing, simply because I enjoyed his writing and his wit.
And Ebert did have a sharp wit; he could trash a movie better than anyone else. The best example is the battle he had with Rob Schneider over the "Deuce Bigalow" movies. A critic (well, many critics, actually) had panned the film, and Schneider made a statement to the effect of, "Your opinion doesn't count because you haven't earned any awards yourself."
Ebert replied, "But Schneider is correct, and Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain...As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."
When Roger Ebert fought cancer he won the first round, although the battle left him missing his lower jaw and it robbed him of the ability to speak (and eat). His lost voice never impacted me...I was not accustomed to hearing it. I never watched his TV show, and aside from a few interviews with Howard Stern, I had never really listened to him speak. To me his voice was the same: it was his written voice, his general way with words.
I will miss that voice. May he rest in peace.