John Freeman: Steal From the Blogs; Blogs Are “Presorted”

From today’s edition of The Leonard Lopate Show (“Why Are Book Reviews Disappearing?”), roughly around the 33 minute mark:

Lopate: Is this a growing area? And are people who really care about books going [to literary blogs] to learn about books?

Freeman: To a degree, yes. But it’s all for the presorted. So if you want to read about books, if you want to read about a certain book, you can go to a specific kind of blog or a specific kind of online news site and find coverage there, tailor-made to your sort of ideological or stylistic preferation [sic], uh, preferences. But I think it gets away from the idea of putting as many readers under the same tent as possible and getting them all to participate in the same conversation. So I think if blogs have done anything, a few of them have very cleverly and creatively used new technology in ways that newspapers haven’t yet. But they could certainly start to borrow from and use that to re-energize their website. The New York Times has done it by having a podcast.

* * *

In other words, John Freeman, the man who publicly declared, “I have never been more embarrassed by a choice than I have been with Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept. It’s hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual critique into Islamophobia,” is telling us that blogs are for “the presorted,” that newspapers should pretty much steal all of the hard work that litbloggers have innovated in to carry on.

Meanwhile, John Freeman has mobilized his action using an online petition and by using online conduits to champion for print reviews.

It sounds to me like John Freeman isn’t so much fighting for ongoing literary coverage in newspapers, as he is using the NBCC as a bully pulpit to drown out all voices contrary to his own. (Meanwhile, this “presorted” blog, which covers a variegated array of topics, leaves comments open to everyone in order to facilitate discussion and it continues to maintain the position, without waffling, that literary coverage in all forms must be championed and preserved.)

No word yet on whether Freeman avoids basements in Terre Haute, but given that he considers Pittsburgh to be part of “fly-over America” (when it’s merely an eight hour drive from New York), I’d say the answer’s leaning towards an unequivocal yes.

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9 Comments

  1. Freeman confuses me. For every “presorted blog” — I’m assuming he means those that focus on a particular genre? — there are more along the lines of the general reader. Even at Sarah Weinman’s blog, at which she focuses mostly on mystery, has a diverse recommendation sidebar: it’s there that I first read about Pigtopia by Kitty Fitzgerald and Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford. If you want to talk about “presorted” why doesn’t he take a poke at the NYRB, a literary journal more nakedly ideological than any I’ve ever come across? (And that (!) is the periodical to which book review editors aspire (or wish to)? Heaven save us.) (Let’s not mention the poor NYTBR which always gets flailed when such topics arise.)

    Does he just mean tastes in general? “Stylistic preferences” as he calls it. I’d take that over the bland trend-followers of the print sections who predictably peddle the latest literary sensation and lots of politics and….oh nevermind, I’m bored with the whole thing.

  2. “Preferations”, huh.
    Presorted be damned. As if papers aren’t prejudiced against certain types of writing. Agree with Imani, it’s damn boring.

  3. How do you think they are stealing, though, Ed? The Guardian has kept up with blogs and led them in some respects from the word ‘go’, more of a synergy there than anything else. And I’m quite happy to read a news blog that’s done well (though they are few and far between).

  4. I commented on a similar post on the Bookfox blog. What is wrong with you guys in America? Why the constant sniping? Is it because the only profitable newspaper in the country is The New York Post (blech!)? (Australian newspapers are similarly afflicted.) Do as the people at The Sydney Morning Herald have done: set up your own blog, visit litblog sites and leave a comment now and then. Generate goodwill for your blog. And PROSPER!

  5. To paraphrase Bernhard: everything is insignificant when one thinks of Sontag stealing from Laura Miller (cf today’s NY Observer).

  6. Dean, the New York Post is one of the most unprofitable newspapers in the U.S. The Post has lost so much money for so long — an estimated $70 million a year — that it would have folded years ago if News Corp. applied the same profit-making rigor to the tabloid as it does to its other businesses. Mr. Murdoch apparently likes having a newspaper outlet in New York despite its drain on the parent corporation’s profits.

  7. Richard, my source is here:

    http://theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21656798-7582,00.html?from=public_rss

    The Australian is Murdoch’s Oz flagship. According to this story:

    “LED by its Australian editor-in-chief Col Allan, The New York Post has again defied the continuing slide in US newspaper sales by posting a big 7.6 per cent jump in weekday circulation.”

    And:

    “The Post’s performance was at odds with the overall 2.1 per cent decline in weekday newspaper circulation across the US reported by the US Audit Bureau of Circulations.”

    However (down the bottom of the piece, which is why I missed it):

    “Analysts believe the newspaper has been losing $US30 million ($36 million) to $US40 million annually.”

  8. Pittsburgh not flyover country??
    Does anyone ever fly TO it?
    It’s closer to industrial disasters like Youngstown than it is to the east coast. The one-time steel town has suffered greatly itself. You really should learn more about the country you live in, Ed.

  9. If people are reading the news online today, why shouldn’t there be book review sites online, too? I’m confused….

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