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August 25, 2007

Newspapers are failing us, so do it yourself

John Stoehr

Here's an item that's near and dear to our hearts here in Flyoverland.

Because newspapers are largely owned by national conglomerates who fail to give communities what they really need, and because these same newspapers are gutting their news staffs and moreover trashing their coverage of books, literary culture and intellectual heritage, we now have this: a scrappy book review from Small Town USA.

Called the New Haven Review of Books, the thinking of Mark Oppenheimer, a contributor to the Huffington Post, is that if we can't get what we want from the dominant newspapers, we do it ourselves. Also, New Haven happens to be home to a stable of terrific writers. Oppenheimer asked them to write reviews, essay and reflections free of charge just to make some points.

One of those points is this: That there are smart, literate and savvy people living everywhere in this country, not just in the major urban centers, and if we can just get them together, ask them what they really believe in and find some kind of square-peg-in-round-hole consensus, brilliant things can happen.

In his own words:

We may never publish another issue of the New Haven Review (our motto is "Published Annually at Most"), but by just publishing once, we've made a statement in support of literary culture. Wouldn't it be cool if other small- and medium-sized towns -- Austin, Des Moines, Albany, etc. -- decided they wanted local book reviews, too? Maybe such reviews would feature local writers doing the reviewing, the way ours does, or maybe they would feature reviews of books by local authors. Either way, they would be reminders that major urban publications do not have to be the sole instruments for book reviewing.

Here's to Oppenheimer and his cohort. May the Bard smile upon you.

Posted by John Stoehr at August 25, 2007 9:16 AM