John Koblin has written a great piece for the New York Observer on the rise—and decline?—of The Review, the section of Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National dedicated to reportage, books and arts. Under the auspices of editor Jonathan Shainin (and with some hefty financial backing), The Review became somewhat of a haven for many talented writers based in New York, and a breath of fresh for intelligent publishers looking for intelligent, critical and lengthy book reviews. Shainin left his post in September this year and, as Koblin reports, his departure suggests all good things must come to an end.
[Shainin left], in part, because the section he brought to life began to feel like something different. Freelance rates got cut back; story lengths changed as the paper transitioned from a broadsheet to a tabloid; ambitious pieces had to be scaled back in order to give way to more—magazine editors, take cover!—'points of entry.'
In about two and a half years, Mr. Shainin's Review was a perfect illustration of what's happened to the American print press in the past couple of decades—lofty ambitions took a back seat to economic reality.
Here, it is worth noting the forthcoming Words and Money by André Schiffrin which includes analysis of the media crisis in the US and why pursuing the bottom line is proving as disastrous to serious journalism as it has been for book publishing.
Thing may indeed be changing for The Review but good reviews are still making it through, like this one by Scott McLemee on Tariq Ali's The Obama Syndrome.
Visit the New York Observer to read Koblin's article in full—and best of luck to Jonathan Shainin and greener pastures.