The problem with blaming Sam Zell for practically everything that's wrong with the newspaper industry is that it's, well, not true. His antics may get the most attention, especially in these parts, but there's nothing noticeably different about the way he’s dealing with the problems of declining readership and advertising. This morning comes word of the Washington Post's decision to eliminate its Sunday standalone book section. It will shift reviews to space inside two other sections of the paper. Standalone book sections are pretty much dead, with the notable exception of the NYT (and for now the SF Chronicle). The LAT lost its standalone section some months ago. From the NYT:
David L. Ulin, book editor of The Los Angeles Times, said the paper had also increased review coverage in the paper during the week, adding one more daily review, and adding content online. “I think that it’s possible to keep book coverage robust without a stand-alone section,” Mr. Ulin said, “both by creative combination of using daily and Sunday print space and using the Web.” He acknowledged that in total, the paper was running two to three fewer reviews a week. But he argued there were some advantages to having been moved into a broader section. “In a section where there are a variety of elements, there might be people who might not ordinarily look at book reviews who might now look at book reviews,” Mr. Ulin said. “One of the issues with book culture in general is it tends to be a garrison culture and identify itself as contrary to mainstream culture, and that in many ways is a self defeating premise.” He added: “You could argue that putting books into the general mix opens more people to that conversation”
Translation: The LAT book section was a boring, elitist, out-of-touch sanctum.
Steve Wasserman, Mr. Ulin’s immediate predecessor as books editor of the Los Angeles Times, said that a standalone book review section was vital for literary culture. “Maybe it’s just foolish and sentimental nostalgia on my part,” he said, “but somehow one likes to think that the republic of letters actually deserves the recognition of a separate country.”
See what I mean?
*Edited from earlier post