PW, Críticas

While I was at Midwinter, I learned the news of the astounding number of layoffs at Publishers Weekly, where I was, until four years ago, the editor-in-chief and a few others at Library Journal, where I was once the editor.

In the process, RBI has also shut down Críticas, “The English-Speaker’s Guide to the Latest Spanish-Language Titles.” I was involved in the launch of Críticas, one of my most cherished projects, since it clearly filled a need. Libraries and booksellers needed help in figuring out how to buy Spanish-language titles and publishers needed a way to reach the market. Críticas served those functions.

We managed to hire a sparkling, talented young staff that put their hearts and considerable intelligence into making the magazine a success. 

So, I am particularly sad to see Críticas go. Hearteningly, Group Publisher Ron Shank, in an interview in Publishers Lunch about the layoffs, said “the most response I have received personally is from librarians and others around the country who lament the suspension of Críticas…we do have plans to continue review coverage and feature coverage of Spanish-language publishing.”

Adriana Lopez, former editor of Críticas, who has been blogging on the Críticas site, encourages librarians in her latest post to email Ron, to ask him to reconsider closing Críticas, or a least to ensure this area gets the coverage it needs in the other magazine.

It’s also painful to see beloved former colleagues let go. When long-time staff leave voluntarily, their accomplishments are publicly lauded. Unfortunately, when they are laid off, celebrations are few.

Among those laid off, is Daisy Maryles who was at PW for over four decades. Many in the book business can’t imagine PW without her; certainly I can’t. Always an enthusiast for books, she has a keen eye for titles that could take off with a little nudge and she was there to provide the right nudge.

She recognized the rise in interest in religion books many years ago and developed PW‘s outstanding coverage. In the process, she helped general trade bookstores, who were afraid to touch that area, become comfortable with titles that generated profits for them. You couldn’t help but get a kick out of seeing this observant Jewish woman navigating her way around the Christian Booksellers Show where she was much beloved.  

Daisy is the bestseller maven, with an amazing mental book database. After years of doing the PW bestseller list, she was always able to look at it in new ways and her annual roundups were an assessment of both popular culture and the shape of the business. She’s a prodigious worker, who never passed on an interesting opportunity because she was “too busy.” She’s also a great skeptic. I felt I had won the Pulitzer Prize when she reacted to one of my ideas with, “I’m not so sure that’s not a good idea.” 

This isn’t the first hit the staff of the three magazines have taken. According to RBI they are laying off 7% of their total employees, and that comes on top of earlier rounds of eviscerations.

Obviously, with this much-reduced staff, it will be necessary to reinvent PW. A community needs a newspaper, whether it’s in print or electronic, to bring it together. There’s still plenty of talent at PW; I know you can find a way to regain that role for the book community.

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