Friday, July 18, 2008

Are Bloggers Too Nice?

Roger Sutton, editor in chief at Horn Book, mistrusts the ability of a blogger to be impartial when reviewing, simply because it’s so easy to become “friends” with someone (e.g., an author) online. In a 2007 blog post titled “This is why I don’t have a blogroll. Or friends,” Sutton submits that:
“Authors active in the blogosphere get treated differently there from their out-of-the-loop compatriots: they get more and kinder attention. It's hard not to be nice to someone, author or editor, whose own site may appear on your blogroll, or who regularly drops by your place to comment.”
Many bloggers, of course, disagreed with Sutton’s opinions. Colleen Mondor asked:
“Reviewers truly can not be friends with authors? That's a rather upsetting and very general statement. I doubt that in the print journalism world there are no authors who have friends who are reviewers.”
Sutton also has no time for blog tours, which he watches “with a sinking heart.”
“It isn't a bad thing at all that publishers are doing their best to use blogs as marketing tools. That's their job. But it's a reviewer's job to ignore the publisher and the author, and to instead focus on the book and its potential audience. Coziness has its price.”
Kelly Herold of Big A, little a, responded:
“We do actually *decide* when and whether we want to host an author. I always insist on reading the author's most recent book first, for example, before hosting. I have said no to blog tours when a) I am unfamiliar with an author's work or b) I dislike an author's work. Would it make you feel better if we said so? Would it make you feel better if a blogger like me posted my blacklist (books I hated and didn't review) for all to see?

We've all been through this debate and I know several people who feel as I do: I'm not being paid to blog, so I don't want to waste my writing time on bad reviews. Each review takes 30-60 minutes to write. I don't feel like spending the time and I also don't feel it's fair to writers to just put up a list of the books I didn't like.”
I have the same attitude that Herold expresses towards my music reviewing; most of the submissions I listen to come directly from the artists or their tiny labels. And most of them get put in the “I don’t like it” pile. But since, to co-opt one of Mondor’s lines, “I am only trying to help listeners find interesting music,” I only spend time writing reviews of albums that I love and want other people to hear.

(Well, except for when I ripped on Coldplay’s X and Y, and their label mysteriously stopped sending us stuff. Not sure if it was a coincidence; I had given glowing reviews to several other bands on their roster. Oh, well.)

Anyways, I put it to my classmates who will be reading this blog: as a parent, teacher, or librarian, do you want more negative reviews put into the mix? Or do you prefer the majority of reviews to be for books that the bloggers think you should read?

1 comment:

Kelly said...

MM: It's an interesting question, that's for sure. I'm still not entirely sure where I stand. On the one hand, I think it's entirely fair to go after established artists if they've produced a dud (say, Coldplay in your example, or the Berenstain Bears in Kidlit). On the other hand, I don't really feel--still to this day--that I have the heart to go after a new author or an indie press. If I don't like it, I just won't review it. (And, as you write, that's 90% of what I receive.)

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