The real reason for not reviewing first novels unless they have some merit is lack of space. Whenever newspapers need to economize, among the first things they cut is book coverage. So if your space is limited, first novels have to have something to recommend in order to make the cut. And readers tend to read reviews in order to find something to read. Telling about a book by someone they never heard of that isn't all that good is rather a waste of their time. Most people are not professors of literature.
That said, Lutz's statement that "the standard, centuries-old idea that evaluation is an important part of the critical act" is pretty dumb. What the hell does he think people read reviews for?