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Supporters Fight to Save Atlanta Book Coverage

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MAIN NEWS HEADLINES
April 19 – April 26, 2007 Edition

Supporters Fight

to Save Atlanta

Book Coverage

ATLANTA, GA/4/25/07­-The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s decision to cut back its book coverage and book editorial staff has met with public opposition from at least one local bookseller and the publicity person for a large New York publisher.

Wordsmiths Books owner Zachary Steele, soon to be opened in Decatur, Georgia, is leading an effort to have the newspaper publisher rethink its decision to shrink coverage, and Shannon Byrne, an Atlanta-based publicist for Little Brown, has joined the cause by circulating a petition against the move.

Bookseller Steele’s blog says the decision will rob future generations of exposure to literature as the most vital aspect of their maturation. He calls literature a necessary component to intellectual growth. “. . . now is not the time to reduce or eliminate the one place they can go to read further.”

Meanwhile, Little Brown’s Byrne is circulating a petition showing support for the Constitution’s fired book editor, Teresa Weaver, calling the book section “one of the best-edited literary pages in the country.”

In early April the Atlanta Journal Constitution reorganized its staff, eliminating the book editor position. Whether book coverage will be reassigned to an existing editor or whether it will be removed altogether is unclear. The newspaper reaches more than 2.3 million readers in Atlanta each week and an additional 3 million additional page views online.

The Constitution is among a number of major daily newspapers that have severely cut coverage of books in recent years. In March 2007 the Los Angeles Times did away with its stand-alone Sunday book section, combining reviews with the Saturday opinion section, “Currents.” The Times Saturday circulation is slightly less than 900,000 compared with 1.2 million Sunday readers based on ABC audits. (Authorlink, March 8, 2007) Last winter, the editor and publisher of the Times left the newspaper in protest of cutbacks ordered by parent owner, the Tribune Company.

The San Francisco Chronicle also tried to move its Book Review inside Sunday "Datebook" in 2001 but received so many protests the section was reinstated in the summer of 2006.

The blog for the Book Critics Circle is calling on all those interested in books and reading to “write to the AJC’s editor Julia Wallace (jwallace@ajc.com) and the publisher, John Mellott (jmellott@ajc.com), and advocate for the continuance of a book page in Atlanta with a diversity of voices, not simply fed by wire copy from the AP or New York Times.”