Abrams: Rethink book reviews

Sam Zell's in-house innovator Lee Abrams has memoed again, long and rambling and ungrammatical as usual. Now that the cost-cutting Los Angeles Times is apparently moving towards folding the stand-alone Book Review into pages at the back of Calendar (and pinning Opinion to the back of the A section on Sundays), his comments on book reviews are more than relevant:

*Books: Heard a conversation about how Book reporting doesn't generate revenue and may have to go away. WAIT! Maybe Book reviews and coverage are one of those things that don't generate revenue right now, BUT--are trademarks for newspapers and elicit high passion from readers. At XM, we had Opera channels. Low listenership...HIGH passion...AND--it was one of those things that even if people didn't listen or even like Opera, it was one of those things you had to have for completeness. Maybe Book sections in newspapers are just dated. Not the idea...but the look and feel. Maybe they're modeled after a book store in 1967 whereas we're in the Borders, Amazon, B&N era. Maybe they are too scholarly. Maybe they avoid genres like Christian books, Celebrity books and Popular novels, opting instead for reviews of the Philippine Socialist Movement in the 1800's. The point here is maybe Book sections need to be as dramatically re-thought as Borders re-thought retail. Not dumbing down--but getting in sync with the 21st Century mainstream book reader.

Abrams also thinks Tribune papers should carry more 4th of July imagery on the front page after noting that some papers didn't play pictures of flags and fireworks: "...a complete avoidance that struck me as something that'll feed the 'liberal bias' that seems to haunt some newspapers. Politics aside---it, like most holidays is something people are talking about. An opportunity to feed the spirit." Tell Zell calls this "seriously the craziest Lee Abrams post ever," with this section the blog's favorite excerpt:

"THE WORLD OF SOUND: Still tied to earth? Escape! There's a world of sound: Natural: Thunderstorms Human: Running...panting....sleeping...crying Electronic: Phasing, Backwards songs, repeat echo, STEREO panning Created: Get out your audio brush and paint! Musical: We once tried Bagpipes on A Rock station and it sounded great! Harps, Oboes, Strings, Ukulele, Banjo,'s all there to use. Challenge the ear."

Tell Zell's take: "This is an actual excerpt from an actual message by an actual Tribune corporate executive. Do the lenders know about this? Why doesn't this make them call in their notes out of sheer panic?" Whole thing over there.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Standing up to Harvey Weinstein
The Media
LA Times gets a top editor with nothing but questions
LA Observed Notes: Harvey Weinstein stripped bare
LA Observed Notes: Photos of the homeless, photos that found homes
Recent LAT stories on LA Observed:
LA Times gets a top editor with nothing but questions
LA Observed Notes: Harvey Weinstein stripped bare
Why the LA Times' new theater column needs a new name
Helping in Houston, new lion cubs, Garcetti's back
Memo: New LA Times publisher drops web widget
Warren Olney leaving KCRW's radio lineup
LA Times purge 'capped a month of newsroom turmoil'
As the L.A. Times turns ...


LA Observed on Twitter