Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Backstory of an NPR blog post . . .

I just filed a post for's culture blog "monkey see," which I called "Another Two Bite the Dust." (I'll post a link when  goes up, in case you're interested. Don't know if the title will hold, but my daughter and her two inseparable middle school friends loved Queen when they were thirteen, and so "Another One Bites the Dust" played incessantly behind the closed door of Lizzie's room. Lizzie, Kristina and Matilda,  my title for this post is in your honor.)

I was never sure whose biting of the dust Queen was talking about, but the two I'm talking about biting the dust on are Editor & Publisher and the Kirkus Review. The death notice of these two venerable journals was casually tacked on by Nielsen Media to its announced sale of eight publications (including Hollywood Reporter and AdWeek) to e5Global Media.

While not exactly magazines you'd display on your coffee table, I think they are well worth a moment of silence from all of us who read.

You're probably familiar with Kirkus if you ever buy books on Amazon. It reviewed some 5000 books a year pre-pub, and these reviews were posted on Amazon right there with the ones from Publisher's Weekly. Having two reviews from established review sources is very important to authors, as it means their books are eligible for public library purchase.

When asked me to post about the death of Kirks, I immediately thought about Charlotte Abbott. It’s always been my opinion that Charlotte Abbot knows, or can find out, everything about anything that’s going on in publishing.

I met Charlotte  years ago while covering the National Book Awards. She was then News Editor at Publisher's Weekly; she's now a PW Contributing Editor and writes for the blog The Publisher-Librarian Connection

Charlotte e-mailed back some information that's in the post (don't want to scoop myself, so I won't include that), but she also had this to say: 
The loss of Kirkus means that there is now less diversity in critical opinions on books available to librarians in advance of publication. It's not a fatal blow, but it does mean that some books will get less exposure. Also, it gives more weight to a bad review by one of the existing review publications.
Blogging, I'm finding out, involves peppering your friends/contacts with e-mails! And sending out blasts of e-gratitude when they get back to you quickly!

Jane Beirn, senior director of publicity at HarperColllins--whom I'd also met while in New York covering books for NPR--lamented the further diminution of the public conversation about books. "Advance reviews are the only way we have of giving reviewers and interviewers an advance heads-up from an outside source." 

As to Editor & Publisher, I'll rely on Dirk Smillie of to put its importance to publishing into perspective.

For a trade magazine with circulation hovering at 15,000, Editor & Publisher has always wielded clout beyond its numbers. The leading authority on the newspaper business for over a century, it has delved into news culture, grappling with workplace issues and how chain ownership shapes content. E&P was there to chronicle the diminishing power of unions. It has investigated war coverage and explored the role of embedded reporters from Vietnam to Iraq. It's been there to cover this year's newspaper bankruptcies, paved by the advertising ice age newspapers have endured for 13 quarters.
As you'll read in my post, the ax fell on these two venerable journals with no warning. Reached Sunday at his Hudson Valley home, E&P Editor Greg Mitchell said they all knew something was up, but didn't really suspect the ax to fall. And that he still didn't know why it had.

Guess that makes Nielsen Media a 21st Century's Queen of Hearts.

You know, the one who shouts, "off with their heads!" And the heads roll.

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