Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Random notes: Katie Couric, BEYOND BAROQUE and the end of book review sections in newspapers.

1.  A familiar technique in TV journalism is to keep asking a question you want answered regardless of what the interviewee is saying.  Chris Matthews did this the other day on HARDBALL when he kept throwing cues at Trent Lott (exhumed from obscurity to carry water for John McCain) to dis George Butch Jr. on-camera.  Here's a link to Jason Linkins' HUFFINGTON POST article describing Katie Couric's attempts to hector Barack Obama into adopting the "the surge worked" conventional wisdom re Iraq:

2. On the Los Angeles literary front, it looks like Beyond Baroque is in trouble again--its new lease apparently doesn't extend to the theater area where local and national poets and writers come to perform.  Here's a link to T.J. Sullivan's LA OBSERVED column:

(Update 7/24/08) T.J. has updated his earlier piece; apparently Beyond Baroque is faced with the possibility of sharing its theater space with LA Theater Works.  Here's a link to LOS ANGELES TIMES blogger Veronique Turenne's take on what's happening:  And here's another update: a letter from Concilman Bill Rosendahl's office:

Hello everyone:

And thank you for contacting the office of your Councilman. 

To clarify, the Councilman is moving forward with an extended lease for
Beyond Baroque.  And yes, that would include utilization of the Theater.
However, as some of you know there are two community based
organizations that utilize 681 Venice Boulevard:  LA Theater Works and
Beyond Baroque.  What the Councilman is seeking is a joint use agreement
so both agencies can have access and utilize all parts of the building
for the benefit of the entire community.

LA Theater Works has offered to make more community workshops available
for youth and all parties interested in participating.  This additional
use would require the sharing of the theater space.  I'm sure no could
argue that maximum utilization of the entire building is a benefit.  So
therefore, by ensuring that both agencies share responsibilities, the
entire community will benefit.  Both our poets and actors.

While the signing of this lease has not occurred in as efficient a
manner as the Councilman has hoped, he is committed to not only getting
it signed, but  that 681 Venice Boulevard will be a true community
facility.  By ensuring that two community based organizations are
committed to offering on going programs, the Councilman is positive that
both agencies will thrive hand in hand with the community.

Again, thank you contacting the Office of your Councilman, and feel
free to contact me should you have any other questions.


Arturo Piña
Office of Councilmember Bill Rosendahl

3. One more Los Angeles literary issue: there's a lot of open-throated wailing over THE LOS ANGELES TIMES' decision to kill the Book Review section in favor of tacking a page or so of book coverage to the Sunday Calendar.  Here's an article (which I first discovered via an e-mail from Dave Marsh's ROCK AND RAP CONFIDENTIAL) about the decline of book reviews in newspapers ordered to cut expenses:

from Publisher's Lunch:
Newspapers and Books: How Far We've Fallen
It was just over a year ago that the NBCC was able to rally people outside the offices of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on behalf of Teresa Weaver after her job as book editor was eliminated. Weaver didn't get rehired by the paper but at least a point was made. Now, with deep staff and coverage cuts at newspapers all across the country, the people who cover books and the slim pages that carried their work are all but marked for extinction. The reorganization at the Tribune Company is remaking such papers as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, Baltimore Sun and South Florida Sun-Sentinel into considerably smaller versions. The latest announced layoff with respect to books is Hartford Courant books editor since 2002 Carole Goldberg. (The paper's pages are being reduced by twenty-five percent.)

Yesterday former LAT Book Review editors Steve Wasserman, Sonja Bolle, Digby Diehl, and Jack Miles circulated a letter that has gotten some pick-up, but in today's environment it reads more as an obituary than a rallying cry:
"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."
See the rest of the letter (and postcomments) here
Tribune competitor Teresa Budasi covered the letter on Chicago Sun-Times blog, but added this: "As a book editor who's been through the process of losing a section and being downsized in another, I sympathize withthem. But wake up, people! The fiscal health of the newspaper business was in the toilet long before they decided to ax a section. Now is the time to take what you're left with and do what you can with it. Just as the newspaper business as a whole is trying to figure out ways to reinvent itself, book review editors must do the same, whether it be by running shorter reviews, beefing up online content or what have you. Stop complaining about loss of culture and glorifying the past and move into the 21st century -- where books are still plenty and people are still reading!"


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