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More Reading on the Radio (Website)


by Jerome Weeks 1 Jul 2008

National Public Radio is significantly expanding the books coverage on NPR.org, says Publishers Weekly. They’ll run weekly book reviews and, to that end, have hired six new book reviewers, including Jessa Crispin, creator of the well-known, tart-tongued book blog, Bookslut, and John Freeman, former head of the National Book Critics Circle and a popular freelancer […]

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National Public Radio is significantly expanding the books coverage on NPR.org, says Publishers Weekly. They’ll run weekly book reviews and, to that end, have hired six new book reviewers, including Jessa Crispin, creator of the well-known, tart-tongued book blog, Bookslut, and John Freeman, former head of the National Book Critics Circle and a popular freelancer whose work often appears in the Dallas Morning News.

“We’re building up our book coverage because book content really works for our audience,” NPR senior supervising producer Joe Matazzoni explained. “Books are among the top three topics attracting traffic to the NPR site,” he said. While the content on NPR.org is often coordinated through such radio shows as All Things Considered, Matazzoni explained that the website also has a mandate to generate original online content and the new features on the book page are part of that ongoing effort. Matazzoni said the site’s standalone coverage “is a real model for us going forward and allows the website to adapt material more specifically for the web.”

In addition  to more reviews, the website is expanding its Book Tour feature, which takes recordings of author readings done at Washington, D.C.’s Politics & Prose bookstore and edits and repackages them into 40- minute podcasts available through the NPR.org.

(Full disclosure: I’ve written book reviews for NPR. org, I’ve edited Book Tour podcasts, I know John and have edited his work. As for Jessa, I’ve served on a Texas Book Festival panel with her. Small world.)

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  • I have many many major problems with NPR’s bookshows. And I’m glad to have a chance to air them. Perhaps the key one is NPR’s refusal to talk about their book coverage.Why the secrecy?
    And beyond that there are these very real concerns for me.
    I have a problem with what they cover. They only seem to cover novels – the cutting edge of literature of 1851 – and non-fiction tell-alls. usually from major political figures.
    And I have a problem with what they refuse to talk about. And this includes their NPR ombudsman.
    They refuse to talk about 1. anything new in literature. 2. any aspect of the publishing industry – why is this news area off the boards? Isn’t it their job to ‘all things consider’? 3. They refuse to talk about any literature advocacy groups – the leading one being the ULA, Underground Literary Alliance.
    The late eighties saw an explosion of publishing in America and the world due to desktop publishing. These self published books are called ‘zines’, as in the end of the word magazine. They are the bulk of publishing in America and the press refuses to even talk about them, let alone review them. I am personally proud to say that I’ve set up the worlds Zine Hall of Fame to celebrate the best of these zines. It’s been going strong for 8 years now. THere is also a zinewiki, encyclpedia of zines. Zines, unlike mainstream publishing, are winding up a golden age of publishing. They will be remembered in the history books, not the stuff reviewed on NPR.
    NPR needs to explain clearly how it chooses the books it review, why zines and all other literature is never talked about, and why literary advocacy groups are never discussed or allowed to have their say.

  • Tom Hayden

    Could someone explain why KERA’s blog cites Publisher’s Weekly for news about something going on at NPR & its website?

    Aren’t you guys part of NPR? Shouldn’t NPR itself be your source for a story about NPR?

  • Mr. Hayden:

    Consider for a moment: If NPR ran an item about NPR’s books coverage — if the New York Times reported on its books coverage or when any media company reports on its own business dealings — it opens up obvious questions about veracity, editorial control, conflicts of interest, etc. The fact is, just for this simple blog post, I felt the need to disclose my own connections to the people involved. More often, such a “news item” would run as a simple, official announcement, a press release — removing such concerns. And, in fact, NPR stations ran announcements about the expanded online book reviews, often just before a new book review was aired.

    But those announcements, of necessity, are very brief, with little information. So Publishers Weekly, with an entire staff devoted to covering the industry, is a logical, likely and reliable source for information about this development.