Ask The Editor

December 9, 2008

Put writers on Washington’s rescue agenda

Filed under: Commentary,The Publishing Biz — editorialconsultant @ 2:32 pm

Every day, more news comes out that negatively affects writers, editors, and others in publishing. The Chicago Tribune is filing for bankruptcy.  Magazines are cutting rates. Some are canceling stories they’ve already assigned. Book publishers are reportedly canceling some contracts and offering lower advances on the new books they do acquire.

Will Washington lend those in publishing a hand, as it’s done for Wall Street and appears ready to do for Detroit?

Any federal effort to put back to work the hundreds of thousands thrown out of work in the nation’s hard-hit industrial, construction, airline, and financial sectors should consider displaced news media workers–including those newly laid off from the publishing industry–as well.

The Federal Writers Project operated from 1935-1939 under the leadership of Henry Alsberg, a journalist and theater director. In addition to providing employment to more than 6,000 out-of-work reporters, photographers, editors, critics, writers, and creative craftsmen and -women, the FWP produced some lasting contributions to American history, culture, and literature. Their efforts ranged from comprehensive guides to 48 states and three territories to interviews with and photos of 2,300 former African-American slaves. These are preserved in the seventeen volumes of Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves.

Sounds like a great concept. I hope someone in Washington considers a new Federal Writers Project.

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