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June 25, 2007

Here's Some More of More of the Same

Via the blogger Emilymnk, word that the ranks of review supplements for American newspapers have grown that much thinner:

This Sunday, the San Diego Union-Tribune will print its last Book Review section. After this, book reviews will appear only as two pages in its Sunday "Entertainment" section, eliminating half the number of books previously reviewed. The Union-Tribune is one of only five U.S. newspapers with a freestanding Book Review section (the others are The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and New York Times).

That last part may be out of date. The Chronicle and Tribune sections have been "reorganized," i.e. shrunk and moved around within the schedule and design of the paper. If they still actually appear as freestanding sections, their existence in that format is probably not long for the world. The trend is more and more towards what the Union-Tribune is doing: reducing books coverage to a page or two in the "Style" or "Entertainment" sections. (Which can then be filled with wire copy.)

To quote more from Emilymnk:

Why the loss of the UT's Book Review bothers is part of a larger concern. Newspapers are not just cutting back on book reviews: they are cutting back on everything. More and more newspapers are written by the same AP report or culled from one of the larger newspapers. This means that our information is coming from an increasingly limited and unified list of sources. PBS's Frontline recently did an excellent series on this, News Wars, which looked into the changing nature of reporting in print and television. The third episode focused on recent battles at the Los Angeles Times, during which it was mentioned that the LA and New York Times were the only newspapers that had reporters continually covering the Iraq war from Iraq. Without these reporters (and the wonderful AP reporters), how would we know what was happening there. Here's a fun and disturbing moment from the piece: "[refuting the idea that Internet news providers like Yahoo! and Google will fill the gap left by newspapers] 'We're in fact critically dependent upon the success of these newspapers,' says Google CEO Eric Schmidt, referring to the Los Angeles Times and others. 'We don't write the content. We're not in the content business. So anything that screws up their economics, that causes them to get rid of reporters, is a really bad thing.'"

I want a t-shirt that says "In the Content Business." The design would involve a target.

UPDATE: See John Freeman's response to this news at Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle.

SEE ALSO: A convenient roundup of commentary on review-section downsizings by Quick Study's virtual neighbor Book/Daddy

Posted by smclemee at June 25, 2007 8:46 AM