For the first time in eons, The Today Show failed to interview the winners of the most prestigious awards in children’s publishing: the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Medal. Disappointing? Yes. Especially when you consider who they interviewed instead–author Nicole Polizzi, aka Snooki from Jersey Shore. Matt Lauer actually asked his guest if she wrote the book she was promoting on the show that day!
Why do media outlets continue to underestimate their audiences? Every day I meet parents and students eager for new books to read. New favorite authors to find. A new character to love.
Children’s book lovers are fighting back, though. Here are a few gems:
1) From Publishers Weekly: No ‘Today Show’ for Vanderpool or Stead by Claire Kirch
2) From Jane Yolen,called by Newsweek “The Hans Christian Andersen of America”, author of 300 published books:
“I could understand important news–assassination attempts, tsunamis, even the death of 1950-1970’s culture hero David Nelson bumping the winners of the biggest book prizes for children’s authors and illustrators off their normal place on the TODAY roster. But Snookie? Surely the literature of childhood is more important than a half literate reality star. Or maybe TODAY is just mirroring the USA as it is in danger of becoming: a second-rate culture that worships mediocrity and cares little about the death of genius or the leadership of America in the world of ideas. Feh.”
3) From Lin Oliver, Executive Director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in her letter to the ‘Today Show’s’ producers:
“I am the Executive Director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a non-profit international organization of 24,000 professional children’s book writers, illustrators, publishers, editors and agents. We are, if you will, the equivalent of the Writers Guild for children’s book authors and illustrators. On behalf of all our members, I have to express dismay at your decision this week not to run the traditional interviews with the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals. The books that are granted these prestigious awards represent the best of what we have to offer children—great storytelling, strong values, a legacy of literature and hope and high-minded ideals. What you elected to run in that spot, an interview with reality star Snooki, represents the exact opposite.
“Of course, we understand the need to attract audiences and maintain ratings, but we feel broadcasting should also serve the needs of citizens who are looking to inspire their children, to raise up their sights. The exposure that your show has always offered to the best in children’s literature is admirable. Why stop now? In choosing not to run the interviews with Clare Vanderpool and Erin Stead, we feel that you underestimated the intelligence of your audience. Parents are dying to get their hands on good books for their kids. Booksellers are eager to sell and promote good books for kids. In fact, the children’s book segment of publishing is the only sector that has not declined during the recession. It’s good business, good broadcasting and good ethics to use some of your program time to honor the best books for children.
“On behalf of our industry, we sincerely hope you can find a way to remedy your decision. Looking forward to hearing from you.”