With the national television news outlets providing wall-to-wall media coverage since Saturday of the tragedy in Tucson, it’s not surprising that two children’s book award winners would be overlooked during a week of breaking news. But, to some who tuned into the Today Show on Tuesday morning expecting to see the Newbery and Caldecott Medalists, insult seemed added to injury. The program did indeed take a break from its coverage of the shootings during the second hour to interview an author. But it was an author who's not likely to win a prestigious literary award any time soon: Nicole Polizzi, better known to the world as Snooki, the Jersey Shore star more famous for her trash talk and wild partying rather than her literary chops.
Librarian/blogger Betsy Bird and author Jame Kennedy are making lemonade out of this TODAY SHOW lemon. They've kicked off a video contest called 90-SECOND NEWBERY which challenges any creative lover of children's literarture to make a video that compresses the story of a Newbery award-winning book (Honor books included) into 90 seconds or less.
As an example, here's a video of Madeleine L'Engle's 1963 Newbery winner, A WRINKLE IN TIME, amusingly abbreviated into 90 seconds.
"A Wrinkle In Time" In 90 Seconds from James Kennedy on Vimeo.
Betsy and James also have plans underway for a star-studded 90-SECOND NEWBERY Film Festival at the New York Public Library in Fall of 2011. So get out your Flip and condense an award winner! And spread the word!
SCBWI HQ is all abuzz about the snub as well. Says Executive Director Lin Oliver, "I can’t believe we have to continue to fight for recognition of what we contribute to society. Jeez Louise." Indeed!
Never an organization to sit back quietly, SCBWI decided to say a few words to TODAY SHOW producers via the letter below. They drafted similar letters sent off to the LA TIMES and the NEW YORK TIMES.
Jim Bell, Executive Producer, Today Show
Noah Kotch, Senior Producer, Today Show
379 E-1, 30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Dear Mr. Bell and Mr. Kotch:
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.
Executive Director, SCBWI
We'll keep you posted as to what (if any) response is recieved from these media outlets.
In the meantime, let us know what you think about the TODAY SHOW's lack of coverage. Leave a comment.