News that the Books Section at the San Diego Union Tribune will no longer be standalone is oozing out into mainstream media, the NBCC reports. When the cutbacks were first announced on the NBCC blog, Critical Mass, the same letter writing campaign-slash-picketing that was urged for the AJC changes was also recommended, this time by West Coast power literary agent Sandy Dijkstra.

Many saw the letter-writing idea as equivalent to spamming the publisher. Yet if the letters are considered offerings of respectful opinion, are they spam? And if we lament the death of standalone book sections but don’t voice this opinion directly to the papers, how would they ever be prompted to reconsider? Years ago when the San Francisco Chronicle’s section was slashed it was the readers whose voices caused the pages’ resurrection.

Apparently Karin Winner, editor of the San Diego Union Tribune, thought at least one letter was sufficiently un-spammish and decided to respond:

“I am sorry that we have had to decide to discontinue the Books section. I launched it many years ago and have fought to keep it going despite the lack of revenue support, so I assure you that I am the saddest person to see it go. That said, these are different and challenging times in the newspaper industry and they are driving the need to make some difficult choices. We put off ceasing publication long enough to develop a game plan for continuing our commitment to books. Beginning Sunday, we will devote two pages to the subject in the Arts section. Also, we will provide book reviews in other sections of the newspaper throughout the week and try to increase the number of stories about authors and book trends. This week we’re launching a book web page, uniontribbooks.com, where we will post reviews, author interviews, event listings and other pertinent news and information. Finally, we are exploring the possibility of co-sponsoring an annual book festival. So as you can see, we are not abandoning this area of coverage, just rearranging how we bring it to you.

Sincerely,
Karin Winner”

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