May 9, 2013

Yesterday was a bad, bad day for book editors UPDATE: Today also sucks


While everyone knows that the life of a newspaper book editor is usually all free lunches, soft couches made of ARCs, and foot rubs from first time novellists, some days it’s just really, really hard.

Wednesday began inauspiciously, when Ron Charles, book editor at the Washington Post, was thwarted in an effort to edit his own newspaper.

Then, he was made to walk to work in the rain.

That’s when things took a turn for the worse, when news came down the wire that USA Today was heavily trimming its book department. Veterans of USA Today‘s book coverage, Carol Memmott and Deirdre Donahue, took early retirement offers, leaving a more bare bones operation. According to Publishers Weekly,

“the spokesperson offered the following statement: “While we’re sorry to lose Deirdre and Carol, USA Today‘s commitment to books coverage remains unwavering. Later this year we’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of our famous book list with a host of new coverage, both print and online. Books editor Jocelyn McClurg and reviewer Bob Minzesheimer remain committed to books coverage and, with senior editors, will be actively recruiting new book reviews both inside the staff and outside.”

Deciding that today was the day to shake more editors out of their luxury induced stupor, the New York Daily News got in on the miserableness by letting go of fifteen staffers, including it is rumored (Update: sadly, now confirmed by the New York Times), book blog editor, Alexander Nazaryan. Writes Joe Pompeo in Capital New York,

“The Daily News is now undergoing what employees of the tabloid have been fearing for weeks: Multiple insiders tell Capital that layoffs have hit the newsroom today. Several sources put the total number of pink slips at around 15…Sources said other names on the list include reporters Christina Boyle and Robert Gearty and editorial writers Stephen McFarland and Alexander Nazaryan, who also writes the paper’s books blog.”

After layoffs and book section cuts, from the Los Angeles Times to the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a vast number of papers don’t even have a book editor any longer. Space for print book coverage in the United States is constricting to the nth degree. Perhaps the internet will save us, but if we had heard that Ron Charles had anything worse to deal with today than password problems and rain, I don’t know what we would of have done. Cried into piles of galleys with no where to send them, I suppose.

 Update: Thursday is also a no good, very bad day for editors in general.

Jon Pompeo at Capital New York reports that the New York Post will be shedding staff and looking to reduce its personnel by 10%. As he says,

“The buyouts also mean that three of New York’s major hometown papers, which like all newspapers have been grappling with diminished print advertising revenues, are in a mode of newsroom downsizing in 2013.”

New York alternative paper, The Village Voice, has not been spared. David Carr writes in the New York Times that Will Bourne, editor in chief, and Jessica Lustig, the deputy editor, both walked off the job this morning after Christine Brennan, executive editor of Voice Media Group, ordered them to fire five editors from a staff of twenty.


Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.