Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We, too, heart Shirley Johnson.

A few months ago, we came across a t-shirt someone was selling through Amazon, "I heart Shirley Johnson."

Shirley Priscilla Johnson, the Wonder Woman of online book reviews, half legend, all sweetheart. Shirley is a delight to the literary publicist community, albeit a little bit of a mystery (where does she find time to read all the books and review them...favorably?). We applaud her for her tireless efforts.

I thought of Shirley while reading the latest addition to the ongoing debate at GalleyCat (a la The Book Publicity Blog, and originating from former L.A. Times book review editor Steve Wasserman). If you haven't been following, here's a recap.

On PBS' NewsHour Monday, Wasserman offered his thoughts on the demise of print book review sections, questioning the legitimacy of the online book review world, which, suffice it to say, has seen a recent surge (did the term "mommy bloggers" even exist a year ago?). Wasserman had this to say:
"But what's lost here is the discriminatory filter provided by people who have embraced journalism as a craft. What has been lost here is the authority, such as it ever was, of newspaper people trying to do a job well done."
Touché…but in a rapidly changing landscape where the lines have been blurred between traditional media and citizen journalism with blogs, internet radio and online reviewers, this has been up for debate since the invention of the World Wide Web.

According to GalleyCat's Ron Hogan, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and The New York Times are the country's only remaining newspapers to still run separate book review sections. The LAT buried the hatchet on their book review section in late July.

As a firm who has repped authors from all walks of life - headlining bestsellers to first-time novelists - we applaud anyone who champions the cause of the writer. To the Shirley Johnsons of the very complex online book review world, our hats go off to you. Thanks for all your thoughts, criticism and praise - mostly unpaid, underappreciated and unrecognized. Thanks for participating in and adding to great literary discussion.


Blogger Laurel Johnson said...

I heart Shirley Priscilla Johnson too. She's a long time friend, a fellow writer, and a colleague at Midwest Book Review. She understands how difficult it is for an unknown author to get any kind of a review. Reviewers at the major dailies are unnapproachable to anyone but A-list publishers and authors. Smaller papers glean their reviews from the major dailies. I celebrate reviewers like Shirley. She has something the big time reviewers don't have -- a big, beautiful, generous heart.

August 17, 2008 at 3:50 PM  

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