The axing of literary, arts and features editors' positions at The Canberra Times has dismayed authors, book shop owners, publishers, readers and reviewers. 'I think it’s going to be absolutely disastrous,' Marion Halligan, author and columnist for the paper's Panorama magazine, told Tuesday's Australian.
'There is stupefaction and dismay at Fairfax’s decision to remove The Canberra Times’s literary editor and rely on the SMH and the Age for reviews. What on earth are we coming to when a major newspaper – published in a sophisticated university city, a national capital even – dispenses with its own literary pages? So far the CT hasn’t published the many letters of protest.'
Letters to the editor have flooded in to the paper from, among others, Sara Dowse, though most have not been published. Dowse's letter was circulated via email.
Dowse wrote: 'We are entering the digital age with a bang but here's my whimper. When I log onto the Canberra Times and click on 'books' what do I get but reviews from the Fairfax Melbourne and Sydney outlets. Not only that but Canberra residents learn of events taking place in Carlton or Glebe, but not a word is to be found about what's happening bookwise in their own town. So does the Times have any plans to overcome this deficiency? Digital, okay. Tabloid, okay. But wiping our capital city off the literary map? Not a good idea at all. The fourth estate has a responsibility to readers that goes well beyond shareholders. It exists for its community too.'
Joel Becker, CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association, protested the cuts in a letter to the editor on 17 July. He said: 'I have found your literary pages to be amongst the best in the country. You have consistently taken advantage of the Canberra environment of highly educated public servants, academics and writers to produce pages that readers – your readers – have wished to read ... [By] eliminating a Canberra Times book pages editor, you provide less reason for your readers to purchase your newspaper.'
Bookseller+Publisher published a number of views from publishers and an independent bookshop owner who said he believed the job cuts will hurt his business.
Independent arts forum, the Childers Group, released this media statement today. ‘Statistics regularly reveal that the ACT region is one of the most cultural communities in Australia ... with the weekly spend on books significantly higher than the national average. It is likely that centralising book reviews in Sydney and/or Melbourne will see less coverage of Canberra writing, and fewer literary reviews being produced by Fairfax-owned newspapers.'
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