Friday, November 23, 2007

The Future Looks Bleak


At the start of this year I was in Dahlonega, Georgia for their book festival. During the time I was there I was on a panel chaired by Teresa Weaver who at that time was Book Editor for “The Atlanta Journal Constitution.” I have admired Teresa’s talents for some time and was more than slightly in awe of her. When she introduced the panel she said I was “a writer’s writer” and that turned awe into complete adoration.

Afterwards I thanked her for her kindness and generosity in her words, and we struck up a conversation. I don’t remember her exact words but somehow she conveyed her feelings that the AJC would probably pull her book reviews soon. She didn’t think book information was as important to the paper as other elements. I told her she was crazy and laughed it off. Never in my wildest thought did I think Teresa would be sent packing. I even said to someone that they would probably boot movie critic Eleanor Ringel Gillespie before they did Teresa.

Fast forward a few months and both ladies are no longer at the AJC. It has happened, I am stunned, and the world of the Arts is not the same. The corporations that run our newspapers, television stations, radio stations, etc are looking for the fast money and the most popular subject matter. If Lindsay Lohan’s latest mixup sells papers, grabs viewers, or attracts listeners then LL it will be.

This abolishment of the Arts is on my mind for a specific reason. For the past year and a half I have been part of a radio segment titled “Fridays With Jackie.” It aired during Nation Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” on Friday mornings at six thirty five and eight thirty five on all the Georgia Public Broadcasting radio stations. It was only four minutes in length and I didn’t get paid for doing it. I did it for the love of the show and the fact I thought it was getting information out about writers, moviemakers, and a variety of entertainers.

This week I received a call from the “new” Program Director at GPB. He stated that effective immediately “Fridays With Jackie” was being cancelled. When I pressed him for the reason he said the show had “no focus” and “was not up to the level of content ‘Morning Edition’ required.” I couldn’t get more detail from him than this, but for it to be cancelled immediately it wasn’t just something he didn’t like it must have been deadly boring.

Does GPB have the right to cancel any program that they air? Of course they do. The question is why. The show didn’t cost them anything, and it provided information about people and events that could not be found on other programs. So what was the harm. The only answer I can rationalize is that this information was not important.

The big stars in all fields are going to have their time in the sun, but “Fridays With Jackie” tried to highlight some of the lesser knowns. This might have been what led to its downfall. If we had talked only about the books of John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steel maybe it would still be on the air.

It is hard enough for most writers to get their books reviewed and a glimmer of publicity headed their way. Believe me it is going to get more difficult in the future as different venues get shut down. Maybe I am just paranoid but I see a bleak future ahead of us in the creative fields. Here’s hoping I am wrong.

Jackie K Cooper

1 comment:

Kathy L. Patrick said...

Jackie,
I too was appalled that the Atlanta Journal Constitution let go it's book editor when to me, that was what the Atlanta newspaper was known for, their book reviews. Then your story about being canceled on the radio made me think of all the things that are being downsized or canceled. Oprah announcing undiscovered authors for her book club selections, what happened to that? Ken Follett for a book club selection? He doesn't need the readership, he's known and well read. I guess that is why we all need to look to the little independent bookstores in the country because they are run by real readers, book people. They may not be as powerful, as big, or have as many titles in their stores but they do know their community and their books. Then everybody needs to take a good look at book clubs. I am telling you book clubs are the ones that are driving undiscovered authors to the bestseller's lists. Since I now run the largest "meeting and discussing" book club in the world, I refuse to select books by authors such as Ken Follett. I select authors such as River Jordan, Michael Morris, Charles Martin, Michael Lee West, Cassandra King, and hey, aren't they on this blog list. So we may be little but you all, we can be mighty. I am a firm believer that if you stand up for what you believe in and for me that is a good story, you stick to your guns and promote that book, that author. I may never be monetarily rich, but my I am rich in the stories that I read and discover everyday.
Loved your blog and Jackie, tell your publisher to get me your books. I am always on the lookout for the next great read. Fortunately for my book club, the Pulpwood Queens, we have discovered some doozies and this was all before the film rights, the morning talk shows, and Oprah. A good book is a good book.
Loved your feature and so happy to be a part of this writer's blog group.
Tiara wearing and Book sharing,
Kathy L. Patrick
Founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs