The Chicago Sun-Times, which fired all of its staff photographers a month ago, is dropping its book pages, effective July 14, the newspaper’s executives announced last week. On July 14, all entertainment coverage, in what is currently the Sunday Show section, will be folded into the newspaper’s Splash section. The Splash section currently focuses on lifestyle, health, and celebrities.
“It’s not surprising to me,” Teresa Budasi, the Sun-Times Sunday Show/Books Editor told PW. “It’s diminished quite a bit since I took over as books editor. I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner, given the lesser the amount of ads we’ve gotten in recent years.” Budasi has served as books editor in addition to her other responsibilities at the Sun-Times since 2007, when the newspaper contained “five or six pages” of book coverage. In recent years, book coverage has “fluctuated depending on ad revenue,” she said, describing it as “very minimal” in the past year.
Budasi explained that the newspaper will continue to cover books on a sporadic basis, but will “probably concentrate more on local authors,” rather than publishing book reviews. “Most reviews in recent years were wire reviews anyway,” she said. The newspaper will also discontinue publishing literary listings; instead the literary events listed in the Chicago Reader alternative weekly newspaper, which the Sun-Times owns, will be integrated into the weekend section.
In contrast, although it dropped its stand-alone book section in 2008, the Chicago Tribune has stepped up its literary coverage, with the launch in 2012 of the stand-alone Printers Row Journal. The Journal, which is available to regular Tribune subscribers for $99/year, enhances the newspaper’s books coverage, currently included in the Sunday Arts & Entertainment section, as well as in the features sections on weekdays. Several pages in the Saturday newspaper are devoted to books as well.
“It’s not just a fabulous, weekly, 24-page tabloid,” Chicago Tribune literary editor Elizabeth Taylor wrote in an email to PW, “It’s a whole program. We set out to build a community, founded on Printers Row Journal.” The Journal contains each week book reviews, author profiles, news about Chicago’s literary scene, and original fiction bound into a separate booklet insert. Subscribers to the Journal can also attend its monthly (“sometimes more”) author series of conversations with top Tribune journalists. Recent authors have included Amy Chua, Sheryl Sandberg, Junot Diaz, and Aleksandar Hemon.
The Chicago Tribune purchased the Printers Row book fair in 2002, the same year it launched its annual Literary Prize program. Printers Row, which has been renamed the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest, will celebrate its 30th anniversary next summer. The newspaper has also sponsored since 1988 the Heartland Prize for fiction and nonfiction and since 1986 the Nelson Algren Short Story Contest.