April 26, 2016

Gannett, the conglomerate that owns USA Today and many other media companies, has submitted a bid for $815 million to buy Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and nine other daily papers. According to the New York Times, Tribune has been “shy”  and “coy” in its response to the bid. As Andrew Ross Sorkin writes, “Instead of Tribune’s board popping champagne corks and shouting Hallelujah, it told Gannett, astonishingly, in effect: ‘Wait. We’re not sure we want to do that and, actually, we’re not sure we even want to talk to you about it.’”   

Today in Paris, New York Times management is planning to meet with union members. The Paris office staff fear the worst, as the New York Post quotes one source: “A lot of people are anxious. . . .  People are worried they are going to close it.” A few days ago, the Post also reported that the Times is planning to lay off a few hundred employees, quoting a disquieting memo sent earlier this year by executive editor Dean Baquet: “Simply put, we keep turning things on—greater visual journalism, live news blogs, faster enterprise, podcasting, racing against an ever-growing list of new competitors on an expanding list of stories—without ever turning things off.”  

Harper Lee

Harper Lee

A previously unknown article by Harper Lee has been discovered. Lee, who worked as Truman Capote’s research assistant on In Cold Blood, wrote her own story about the murder case in an unsigned piece for The Grapevine, a magazine for former FBI agents. The essay was discovered by Lee biographer Charles J Shields, when he stumbled on this note in a newspaper column by one of Lee’s friends: “Nelle Harper Lee, young writer who came to Garden City with Truman Capote to gather material for a New Yorker magazine article on the Clutter case, wrote the piece. Miss Harper’s first novel is due for publication . . . this spring and advance reports say it is bound to be a success.”

The novelists (and literary power couple) Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman have been researching a book of essays they are to edit that will mark fifty years of Israeli occupation. As their twenty-two other contributors will do over the coming months, the two have been visiting the occupied territories to get a better sense of the everyday lives of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. During the couple’s trip, The Forward interviewed Chabon, whose comic noir novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is probably the closest he has come to addressing Israel in his work to date. What a creative writer has to offer in such situations, he says, “is an overt point of view that doesn’t try to hide itself the way journalists are trained to be objective and conceal their biases and just ‘present the facts.’” Chabon has now made his position on the occupation very clear: “It is the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life. I have seen bad things in my own country, in America. There is plenty of horrifying injustice in the U.S. prison system, the ‘second Jim Crow,’ it is often called. Our drug laws in the United States are grotesquely unjust. I know to some degree what I am talking about. This is the worst thing I have ever seen, just purely in terms of injustice. If saying that is going to lose me readers, I don’t want those readers. They can go away and never come back.”

The Hollywood Reporter has a story about the Los Angeles Review of Books in which the likes of Cameron Diaz and Mad Men creator Matt Weiner enthuse about the literary journal. But while Weiner sings its praises for being “a little bit renegade” and having “a little bit of ‘f— you’,” Michael Tolkin—who wrote Robert Altman’s The Player and thus, incidentally, gave the world its clearest sense of how to pitch a Hollywood movie (Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman!)—sees it very differently. “LARB is much more interested in finding people who are enthusiastic about the writing they’re looking at than the takedown,” Tolkin is quoted as saying, before adding, “That’s an East Coast device, not a West Coast device.” We’d consider saying something scathing about that, but we don’t want to play to coastal type.

 

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