Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mourning the loss of the local news

I read in the paper yesterday that a good bit of our local newspaper is being combined with the Charlotte paper. The N&O laid off many people for this transition.

The loss of more of the local flavor of our paper is very distressing. I have written the book editor about the lack of highlighting local authors and reviewers in favor of nationally syndicated material. She wrote back that she did the best she could do with her budget. I have just today written the editor to complain about Peder Zane's column on Sunday where he says local bookstores are unable to get nationally known authors and are instead filling in with local writers. Here is my letter (if they don't publish it at least I'll have it out there for somebody to read):

"Peder Zane’s June 15 column was the work of a man who seems totally out of touch with the local literary scene. Our independent bookstores feature nationally known writers on a weekly basis, sent by the publishers. Not only that, but many of our local authors are nationally and internationally known themselves and hardly filler. In spite of the problems with the publishers mentioned in his article, our booksellers continue to recruit the best of the literary world to their doors and need recognition for it."

It seems to me that for local papers to survive they will have to stop competing on a national level. We can get all of our news online and on the television and radio. I don't need for my local paper to regurgitate that. I want the News and Observer to have articles on relevant topics for people in the Triangle. We have a wealth of universities doing amazing things with medicine, creative writing, agriculture, architecture, religion, young people. We have local businesses trying to stay alive in hard times. We have local politicians whose issues directly affect our day-to-day living. We have human interest stories about our neighbors, churches, non-profits. We have heroes who demonstrate courage every day by fighting crime and fires and medical emergencies. We have older people whose stories are dying with them every day. We have water woes, transportation troubles, development issues.

The News and Observer will not survive by going national or regional. It will survive by catering to the people who walk down their sidewalks each morning or stop by the fifty-cent box on the way to work. It will survive by showcasing local cultural events and recruiting local advertisers. It will survive by helping us to shop locally, think globally, be informed and care about what is going on in our community.

I'm sorry to see that the paper is moving more and more away from what I want to read. The local paper must go back to being a local paper if it is to survive. Otherwise, I have no need for it.


J. Peder said...


I agree with many of your larger points about our rich local literary scene, but you have completely mischaracterized my column.

First, the piece made it crystal clear that the Triangle is still attracting big name writers:

"We're still getting big-name writers, just not as many," said Jamie Fiocco, manager and events coordinator at McIntyre's Fine Books in Fearrington Village.

Second, I didn't make-up this development, I reported what I learned through interviews with local booksellers, like Fiocco, and New York publishers.

J. Peder Zane

mamie said...

I too have read and heard about the publishers and their lack of support of the independent writers and bookstores. I have read about the way they pour money into big name authors at the expense of quality literature. But I felt that the independents in this area had, in the face of overwhelming odds, continued to have important author events. After reading the column, I did a little research of my own. I called the bookstore that I frequent the most - Quail Ridge Books - and asked if they were getting fewer big-name writers. In fact, they said, they are getting more big name writers than ever.

I also still hold to my point that having readings by our local writers is in no way a compromise and to insinuate otherwise is an insult to them and to the venues who are honored to have them.

billie said...

Mamie, if you ever want to write a post about the rich NC literary scene and encourage folks to get out and support all the wonderful readings we have access to, I'd love to run it on mystic-lit.

I was thinking this week I want to put at least one new mystic-lit post up in July and one in August.

No pressure - but I like what you're saying here and it would be good fodder for readers at mystic-lit.

mamie said...

Billie, I have a lot to say about that. I'll work on a post. Thanks for the invite!