Letter of Protest from Previous LAT Book Review Editors
LA Observed reprints an open letter sent by former book review editors Digby Diehl, Sonja Bolle, Steve Wasserman and Jack Miles protesting the termination of the LA Times Book Review as a standalone section after publishing one last edition this Sunday, July 27. And since it’s better to read the entire thing in full, I shall reprint the letter’s entirety here as well:
LOS ANGELES, Calif.–As former editors of the Los Angeles Times Book
Review (1975 through 2005), we are dismayed and troubled at the
decision by Sam Zell and his managers to cease publishing the paper’s
Sunday Book Review.
This step signals the end of an era begun 33 years ago when Otis
Chandler, then the paper’s publisher and owner, announced the debut of
the weekly section. Since then, the growth of the Los Angeles
metropolitan region and the avidity of its numerous readers and writers
has been palpable. For example, every year since its founding in 1996,
the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has attracted upwards of
140,000 people to the UCLA campus from all walks of life throughout
Southern California. Four hundred writers from all over America
typically participate. The written word is celebrated. It is the most
significant civic event undertaken by the Los Angeles Times to deepen
literacy and to strengthen the bond between its news coverage and its
far-flung community of readers. But without the Book Review itself, the
book festival will be a hollow joke.
The dismantling of the Sunday Book Review section and the migration
of a few surviving reviews to the Sunday Calendar section represents a
historic retreat from the large ambitions which accompanied the birth
of the section.
To be sure, no section of any newspaper can remain hostage to past
ways of covering the news of the day. We are convinced, however, that
the way forward is to increase coverage of our literary culture — a
culture that every day is more vibrant and diverse in the thriving
megalopolis of Los Angeles.
Angelenos in growing number are already choosing to cancel their
subscriptions to the Sunday Times. The elimination of the Book Review,
a philistine blunder that insults the cultural ambition of the city and
the region, will only accelerate this process and further wound the
long-term fiscal health of the newspaper.
We urge readers and writers alike to join with us as we protest this sad and backward step.
Asking Zell & co. to see reason is akin to the magical sprouting of working wings on a pig, but it does beg a related question: whither the Festival of Books?
UPDATE: In related news, PW reports that Carole Goldberg, the Hartford Courant’s books editor since 2002, was laid off today as part of the current round of cutbacks.