June 28, 2013

Chicago Sun-Times cuts book coverage


The Chicago Sun-Times announced it will no longer run the Sunday Show section and its book pages. On July 14, the entertainment stories will be folded into the paper’s Splash! section, which focuses on style and celebrity news.

Former editor of the Sun-Times book section Henry Kisor posted the news on his blog:

I can’t say I was surprised. In fact, I’m amazed that authors and books lasted as long in the city’s struggling No. 2 paper as they did. (I’m also amazed that the Sun-Times—now ChicagoSunTimes.com, to reflect its increasing presence on the Web—has managed to survive the ongoing collapse of American daily newspaper journalism as long as it has.)

I feel lucky to have retired from the paper’s book editorship in 2006, at the beginning of the disaster. As a working author, however, I don’t feel so fortunate at the loss of the Sun-Times book section. Getting a new book reviewed by competent critics anywhere is nigh unto impossible now.

This arrives in the wake of the Sun-Times letting go of its entire photography staff, and training its remaining employees to take iPhone photos. The outrage persists: CNN has posted a gallery of the photographers’ work, PetaPixel compares the old covers to the new, Globe & Mail ponders why most snapshots are so forgettable, and a Tumblr called SunTimes/Darktimes is chronicling the photography work of the Sun-Times in the wake of its layoffs.

Rob Hart’s lively layoff coverage continues to impress, including this short announcement that reprints of the iPhone photos taken by reporters are now available for sale.

Though the Chicago Sun-Times’s struggle is hardly news at this point, and its book coverage seemed to be shrinking for some time, it’s troubling to watch another review section vanish altogether. Elizabeth Hardwick put it best in “The Decline of Book Reviewing,” published in 1959:

The book-review sections as a cultural enterprise are, like a pocket of unemployment, in a state of baneful depression…. One had not thought they could go downward, since they have always been modest, rather conventional journals. Still, there had been room for a decline in the last few years and the opportunity has been taken.

We’re sorry to see the likes of the Chicago Sun-Times disappear so soon after GoodReads has been sold and just as Double Blind Book Reviews launches. Darktimes indeed.


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.