The Times today had a quite predictable piece wringing hands over local newspapers getting rid of book critics and editors. A few things they didn’t say:
Most times, when I read local book reviews, I end up unimpressed. The Times tried to sniff at book bloggers, but lots of them are well written, considered, and passionate, and the lot of them together is more comprehensive. I’d say a paper would do well to link to the best of them.
And what makes book reviews necessarily local, unless the books are local? Do we need a review of Harry Potter from that unique Cleveland perspective? No. Just as movies and TV shows are not local, neither are most books.
Finally, the story goes after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which “has recently eliminated the job of its book editor, leading many fans to worry that book coverage will soon be provided mostly by wire services and reprints from national papers.” But let me ask: In a time of shrinking newspaper revenue and budgets, which would you rather keep: a book editor or a local reporter or editor? You can now link to lots of book reviews — more than ever — but if the AJC doesn’t give you local reporting, who will? If it doesn’t give its readers local news and reporting, then what is its real value?
You have to love the open-minded curiosity of novelist Richard Ford, quoted at the end:
Mr. Ford, who has never looked at a literary blog, said he wanted the judgment and filter that he believed a newspaper book editor could provide. “Newspapers, by having institutional backing, have a responsible relationship not only to their publisher but to their readership,” Mr. Ford said, “in a way that some guy sitting in his basement in Terre Haute maybe doesn’t.”