In the wake of this week’s shocker announcement that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had let go its books editor, Teresa Weaver, in a cost-cutting measure, the literary community in Atlanta is mobilizing in full force. Wordsmith Bookstore owner Zachary Steele expressed his dismay at the move. “the AJC is depriving us all of that literate touch and in the process, I believe, showing how completely little they understand their readers and what it is that they want out of their paper.” In the comments section of that post, Little, Brown publicity manager Shannon Byrne (who works remotely from her Atlanta home) has posted a petition (which is reprinted after the jump) which she emailed to AJC editor Julia Wallace.
According to PW Daily, Byrne received an automated response stating “We are not killing our book coverage or book pages…. We will be using freelancers, established news services and our staff to provide stories about books of interest to our readers and the local literary community.” Byrneâ€™s response to Wallaceâ€™s message? “I donâ€™t buy it for one minute.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionâ€™s recent decision to eliminate its book editor positionâ€”and, possibly, its book review sectionâ€”is demoralizing beyond words. The AJCâ€™s book section is one of the best-edited literary pages in the country. It provides Atlanta, which ranks #15 on the University of Wisconsinâ€™s list of most literate cities in the U.S., with a powerful and necessary cultural dialogue. Under the astute guidance of the sectionâ€™s editor Teresa Weaver, the books page has demonstrated an admirable commitment to both literature and nonfiction works which have grappled with some of Americaâ€™s most complicated issues and themes.
Not only has the AJCâ€™s book section helped to champion such important writers as Edward P. Jones, William T. Vollmann, and Colm Toibin, not to mention Paul Hendrickson and Monica Aliâ€”all of whom are now recognized as major literary voicesâ€”but it has struck a fine balance by also letting readers know, through interviews and event listings, about more popular authors who are stopping through Atlanta on their book tours. If the major newspaper in a major market like Atlanta lacks a book section, then we may soon be missing authors, too, when publishers decide not to send their writers to a city where the primary forum of ideas and review is ignoring them.
I am a subscriber to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and I want the AJC to continue publishing a book section that gives my city 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.