On January 19, the Winnipeg Free Press printed an editorial by Paul Samyn entitled It's your paper too, so what do you want to see?
In his editorial, Samyn wrote that they are contemplating changes to the Saturday edition of the paper:
"We are starting with a blank canvas that will, in short order, become
a new showcase section in your weekend edition of the Free Press. My
only marching orders to our staff are to create a section that readers
are prepared to fight for when they pick up the paper Saturday morning. But what are your marching orders as a reader? What do you want to read? What do you need to read?"
This means that the Books Section, which has always run in the Saturday paper, is in danger of changing format, or, worse, disappearing altogether.
Which, obviously, would be bad. But let's chat for a second about WHY I would specifically be impacted if the Books Section went away...
Under Morley Walker's tenure as editor, the Books Section reviewed titles that would be of interest nationally and internationally but also regional titles that might not get reviewed elsewhere.
Not only that, but he included poetry in the mix, with a monthly poetry column.
As a female poet living on the prairies (i.e. outside of the major centres), publishing her first book of poetry (!) about pregnancy and mothering (!), I was worried that I might not get reviewed anywhere.
And so it was so so wonderful to have my book reviewed in the pages of the Books Section.
But my connection to the Books Section, as a writer and a reader is much older than that 2010 review.
I started reviewing for the WFP in 2002. Prior to that, Morley was the arts columnist I loved to hate. But I was introduced to a different Morley via my freelancing for the Books Section.
For all his impress-me-I-dare-you arts columnist bluster, Morley is one of the best editors I've ever had.
I've submitted sixty-some-odd reviews to Morley over the past decade, poetry and fiction. He always told me what he liked about my reviews. And when he didn't like my reviews, he told me why and gave me time to fix them, without any jeopardy attached.
But in addition to our freelancer/editor relationship, Morley has invested a lot of time and effort keeping the Books Section going over the years and so I'm grateful to him for that, too.
So, if we're keeping a tally, the Books Section has helped build my career as a poet and a reviewer.
But more than that, Morley and the Books Section have contributed to the literary community in this city. We've got great writers in Winnipeg, of every genre, of every inclination, and that's partly because we're a place where discussions about writing of every genre, of every inclination, happen every weekend in the daily newspaper.
The Books Section doesn't only celebrate local titles. It also critiques them, which is far more useful to writers and readers than a review filled with puffery.
So, please, let's tell the Winnipeg Free Press that we want to keep our Books Section. That we want to keep having meaningful, local conversations about books and ideas.
Here's what you can do:
1) Comment on Paul Samyn's editorial.
2) Send the editors an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
3) Send Paul Samyn a letter c/o the Free Press newsroom, 1355 Mountain Ave, Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6