The Book Review’s Last Chapter

December 12th, 2012 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

By Denise Tessier

Much of the front page of this week’s Sunday Journal was devoted to a story about a book. It’s a story well worth the space – about Anne Hillerman venturing into fiction and continuing the legacy of her father, Tony Hillerman, by writing a Leaphorn-Chee book of her own.

It’s a national story, actually; its genesis is local. But it could also be a hint as to how the Journal will handle books at the beginning of the new year, when book editor David Steinberg is set to retire after a four-decade career at the state’s largest newspaper.

That is, it’s a hint of the Journal sans book page devoted to local authors, with the paper possibly handling book stories according to their newsworthiness.

Already, letters are circulating via email, asking people to write editorial page editor Dan Herrera, editor Kent Walz, arts editor Rene Kimball and Publisher T.H. Lang in hopes of persuading the Journal to continue its Sunday book page.

Without Steinberg, however, it’s clear that even if the Journal continues to carry a book page, it will not be the same.

While Steinberg uses staffers and others to help write reviews, he has written most of the weekly book page himself, including his page-long column that lists local book signings and profiles local authors. If the page continues with wire stories from afar, then that focus on local writers, of which New Mexico has many, by nature will be lost.

Very few daily papers still have a book section. NPR was lamenting the demise of this institution three years ago, two years after a 2007 Campaign to Save Book Reviews by the National Book Critics Circle.

The Journal has been one of the few to continue with a book page because of Steinberg. Taking over its editorship was his way of slowing down after serving as Arts Editor for several years.

David Steinberg was chief of the Journal’s three-man Capitol Bureau when I started at the Journal in 1974. Today, he holds the unique distinction of being the only staffer still at the Journal who has continuously been there since. Everyone else – editors, reporters, photographers (with one exception, Win Quigley, who also was there but left for a few years to work in private industry) has come after Steinberg.

Word has it that he’ll continue to freelance book reviews, but the public is already worried. Here is the text of an email forwarded to me, which originated with an artist in Torreon:

The Albuquerque Journal will change the Sunday Book Page in the new year. They will drop most, if not all, local book reviews. We probably cannot change their mind about this, but we can all let them know what we think about these changes.

Not only are they dropping local book reviews, but the calendar listings that they provide are “selected” at best. We need to be able to list ALL book events.

Many people who read books also read local newspapers. The paper does not reflect the wants/needs of its readers. Many people are not happy with the upcoming changes.

If you are so inclined, you can send a letter to the editor about your opinions on this. They should go to:

Letters to the Editor
Albuquerque Journal
PO Drawer J
Albuquerque, NM 87103

You can also send a copy of your letter to:
Dan Herrera, Editorial Page Editor
Kent Walz, Editor
Rene Kimball, Arts Editor
T.H. Lang, Publisher

David Steinberg has earned his retirement – and the gratitude of many authors whose careers he helped simply by letting the public know of their work.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Cheryl Everett

    The Journal also has no TV critic. Coming from the realm of incisive Detroit Free Press TV critic Mike Duffy, I’m feeling especially bereft. I suppose one could argue, as Harold Ramis did in “Ghostbusters,” that “print is dead,” but TV certainly is not. I noticed the TV critic gap while the special series “Network” was enthralling me but seemingly receiving no coverage in the lamestream media. Let’s just say that the Journal doesn’t seem to favor critical cultural content in any form.

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