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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

L.A. Times Earthquake: Shaking the Foundation of Literary Life in Los Angeles

For the last few years, the Los Angeles Times newspaper has been seeing a decline in circulation, a decline that is likely mimicked across the country amongst even the best of old school print media. The newspaper has been making its own news; a takeover, and then massive and highly controversial staff slashing.

The most recent in a growing list of casualties is the Sunday Book Review, a weekly stand alone section of the paper dedicated to literary features and reviews. The section has been a part of the Sunday paper for 33 years. According to Publishers Weekly, the Sunday Book Review is scheduled to see its last issue this Sunday.

I've had many discussions with friends about the changing nature of news reporting and media sources in the internet age, including some who have themselves been victims or refugees of newspaper downsizing. I don't have a magic solution to this problem. I myself am not a paper subscriber, just a paper leech, stealing the Sunday Book Review section from my office paper first thing on Monday morning. Also, I confess to being an avid N.Y. Times Online reader, where I can click just the stories that interest me.

However, it strikes me as odd that the current tactic to fight the declining circulation is to subtract value from the paper, instead of to add to it. Friend to this site Molly's recently posted an open letter to the Times that thoughtfully addressed how the paper can increase their revenue and better integrate their online presence.

I could wax on here about what Los Angeles loses with the end of the Sunday Book Review, but I think it is much more elegantly expressed in this letter to the editor written by four former editors of the Sunday Book Review:
Angelenos in growing numbers 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.


Sven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sven said...

'Quick! We're losing the race, what'll we do?!'

'I know lets take off one of the wheels it'll make us lighter!'


Jessica said...

For the past 2 weeks I've been trying to subscribe the LAT, but now I've given up since it's prohibitively expensive. Like $168 for 8 weeks worth of 6 days-a-week service. That's $21 a week. Granted, I live in SF, but c'mon, I'm still in California. I might as well subscribe to the NYT at that price.

But you have to face it, the print newspapers are fading fast. The Chronicle Sunday book review section was recently combined into the "Insight" section as a "pull-out" section. ??? Oh, and 3 days a week the back of the Sports section is the Business section. I just love how sports outweighs finances. Is nothing making sense anymore? Everyone's grasping at straws these days. At this point, I'm pretty sure we will witness the disappearance of print newspaper dailies in our lifetime.

What I also read in the LAT this week when they announced that the Sunday book section was going away is the irony in that the LA Times will continue to sponsor the annual book festival. wtf?

Anonymous said...

Here in NY the Post and the Daily News will now be printed at the same facility so both papers can cut costs (read: Dropping Readership). In the past this would be unheard of. The NYT is also losing staff big time. While the book review hasn't been cut, one can only suppose that somebody said, "Well, if nobody's reading, why the heck to we need book reviews?!" Ugh. Terrible logic.