Monday, April 23, 2007

The Campaign to Save Book Reviews

Will books just get blogged? This just in from the National Book Critics Circle Newswire:

"For years, the news coming out of book review sections has not been good: everywhere, we hear, pages are being cut, budgets are being reduced. But in the past few months the situation has taken a turn for the worse. The Raleigh News-Observer recently eliminated its full-time book review editor position. The same spot at the Atlanta Journal Constitution now hangs in the balance. A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times dissolved its 12-page, stand-alone book section into an "Ideas" section that contains many fewer print reviews.

"In response to this dismaying trend, this morning the NBCC launched a campaign to Save Book Reviews on its year-old blog, Critical Mass. As NBCC President John Freeman explains in his inaugural post, “We’re tired of hearing newspapers fret and worry over the future of print while they dismantle the section of the paper which deals most closely with the two things which have kept them alive since the dawn of printing presses: the public’s hunger for knowledge and the written word.”

Over the next six weeks, the NBCC blog will serve as a forum where members and non-members can discuss what makes book reviews so important and what they can do in response to the review-cutting trend. Critical Mass will feature posts by concerned writers, interviews with book editors in the trenches, and links to op-eds by critics, novelists, and NBCC members. Q&As with newspaper editors and owners will clarify the business context for these changes.

Today, for example, Critical Mass published a satirical memorandum by George Saunders, an interview with Los Angeles Times Book Review editor David Ulin, commentary by novelist Stewart O’Nan, and tips about how you can get involved to make sure newspaper owners and editors know that book sections matter. Coming weeks will see posts by or interviews with Rick Moody, Roxana Robinson, Andrei Codrescu, Adam Hochschild, Mark Bowden, Lee Smith, and book editors in California, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, and Washington DC. The list goes on and on. We’ve also developed a webpage related to this campaign on the NBCC’s main website.

We urge you all to get involved by reading and commenting on the Critical Mass blog posts, and, if possible, by publishing pieces related to the issues raised by this campaign."

UPDATE: Thanks to Nancy Zafris, here's a link to sign the petition to save the Atlanta Journal Constitution's books section.