Rewinding the Review, December 9 2007: Sam Tanenhaus to Run Week In Review

Quick update to today’s Review of the New York Times Book Review: I’ve now heard the news that Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus will be adding the Sunday “Week In Review” section to his editorial duties, replacing Katy Roberts. I’m disappointed to hear this.

The Week In Review is my second favorite section in the Sunday New York Times, and (like the Magazine, and like Arts and Leisure) it boasts a great literary reach. For instance, today’s Week In Review features Dave Eggers with a solid article about the depths of money-grubbing in modern presidential campaigns. Sam Tanenhaus has his own impressive literary reach, of course, but Tanenhaus’s tastes have always seemed to skew towards the dustier bastions of highbrow culture, and I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of Dave Eggers once Tanenhaus is running the Week in Review.

As for the political angle, Sam Tanenhaus is now being regularly identified as a “neo-conservative” (see Observer article, above), and his reviewer selections for the Book Review seem to bear this out.

Over its long history, the New York Times has had an excellent record of progressive journalism, and the Week in Review is part of this record. In our decade, many have faulted the New York Times for failing to report as aggressively and skeptically as possible on the justification for the war in Iraq, and many feel the Times has abandoned its historic position as a leader in investigative reporting on critical national and international issues.

The Week in Review section has always been a part of this historic position, and I wish the Times had picked an editor with a more groundbreaking journalistic bent to play this influential role.

I am glad, though, that the Times is beginning to ease Sam Tanenhaus out of his uncomfortable perch atop the New York Times Book Review (I expect and hope that a new editor of the NYTBR will be announced shortly, possibly with Tanenhaus continuing to oversee). Today’s announcement may be good news for the Book Review, but it’s not good news for the New York Times.

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