Four past book editors of the Los Angeles Times — Sonja Bolle, Digby Diehl, Jack Miles and Steve Wasserman — released a letter protesting the planned termination of the Sunday Book Review, which apparently will be replaced by a smaller number of pages appended to the Calendar section.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.--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.
To be sure, no section of any newspaper can remain hostage to past ways of covering the news of the day. We are convinced, however, that the way forward is to increase coverage of our literary culture -- a culture that every day is more vibrant and diverse in the thriving megalopolis of Los Angeles.
Angelenos in growing number 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.
We urge readers and writers alike to join with us as we protest this sad and backward step.
Added: Publishers Weekly reports that two book editors are being laid off at the Times, and blogger Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind) notes the Tribune's Hartford Courant just laid off its books editor.