Last week's annoucement that the Atlanta Journal Constitution was eliminating its book review editor position, formally held by Teresa Weaver, as well as other cuts or shrinking book review sections, such as the Chicago Tribune's, prompted the National Book Critics Circle to begin their Campaign to Save Book Reviews. According to NBCC president John Freeman, the elimination of Weaver's job "became an excuse to start this campaign, but at our last board meeting we’d been talking about this issue, and in fact we’ve been talking about it kind of constantly."
The first front of the campaign is an online petition already signed by well known writers like Richard Powers and Michael Connelly, and which anyone can sign on the Web. Signatories are asked to affirm the following:
"I am a subscriber to and/or a frequent reader of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and I want the AJC to continue publishing a book section edited by Teresa Weaver that gives Atlanta a unique, thoughtful approach to books, one that represents a diverse array of voices, and is not simply fed by wire copy from the Associated Press or the New York Times."
The NBCC has practical and more general goals: "The ideal results in Atlanta would be for Theresa to have her job back and the section to continue existing as it has; it was a terrific venue for discussion, interviews, and listings of book events throughout the southeast. Overall what we’d like to do is start a conversation between readers, and critics, writers, authors and newspaper editors to talk about how important these sections are for a lot of people, and raise the awareness, especially to newspaper owners that they're not expendable."
While the Chicago Tribune will continue to publish its stand alone book review--it will remain a six page tabloid within the paper, featuring approximately 10 reviews, under the editorship of Elizabeth Taylor, the paper will move the section from its Sunday edition to Saturday. "We wanted to ensure its continued success," Taylor told PW. "My passionate goal was that the book section remain a free-standing section of the paper."
Freeman, speaking for the NBCC, said it is time to act: "we have to step back from discussion and become activists in order to ensure that these venues are going to be around in the future."